Planning performance is on the up in the South Downs National Park

EARLY planning problems experienced by the new South Downs National Park have been ironed out and performance is continuing to improve.

The report to a full meeting of the national park authority (NPA) came from its director of planning, Tim Slaney.

It was a far cry from the summer of 2012 when the NPA was forced to issue an apology after it was flooded with complaints from parish councils across the Chichester district over its new system for informing them of planning applications.

The NPA said it was working in partnership with planning authorities to develop a single process for registering and processing planning applications across the park.

For Chichester District Council this had meant introducing the new system and the park was working closely with it to minimise disruption and delays.

Last week Mr Slaney told national park members: “As our partner host authorities become familiar with the NPA processes and as the hardware and software problems are resolved, performance continues to show further signs of improvement.”

His report showed that a total of 19 complaints were received in the year to March 31, 2014 compared with 32 the previous year when the new planning administration system was introduced and ‘numbers are considered to be relatively low’.

By contrast, 48 compliments were received, including positive feedback on the new system.

A total of 2,366 planning applications were decided 
across the park last year by the authority’s own planning committee and all the planning authorities inside its boundaries.

These included full and outline plans, changes of use, listed building consents and householder applications.

Chichester District Council decided 706 and the park itself dealt with 210.

Almost 80 per cent of the total were decided in the allotted timescale of eight, 13 or 16 weeks and, said Mr Slaney: “This is considered to be a generally good overall level of performance.”

CDC approved 77 per cent of its applications and the park planning committee approved 84 per cent.

There were a total of 78 planning appeals received, 23 of which were in the Chichester District.

During the year, 62 decisions were received from government planning inspectors and 41 (66 per cent) were dismissed: “This is around the national average of around 65 per cent,” reported Mr Slaney.

Planning fee income was £993,000 and some £553,000 in section 106 planning contribution cash from developers is being held by the NPA towards a variety of projects including community education, transport and recreation space.