Our experience is that there has been a very noticeable decline in the helpfulness, efficiency and professionalism of local authority planning departments.
Part of this reflects a shortage of trained and knowledgeable staff dealing with heavy workloads, but there are also a cultural issues with some organisations, and it is our observation that these too are getting worse.
Some planning staff, including some who are Members of the Royal Town Planning Institute, increasingly seem unable to use a telephone, or reply to emails, or draft a comprehensible letter or proof of evidence. Worse some are unable to speak properly.
The RTPI urgently needs to address professional conduct matters and demand standards of conduct on a par with those of the RICS. Expert Witness conduct especially needs attention both for the private and public sector wings of the profession. The RTPI is not tackling the blurring of advocacy and expert. Success related fees for consultants must be incompatible with the need for expert witness conduct and approach at planning appeals. Likewise Officers cannot give advice recommending approval and then give expert evidence at appeals to the contrary.
By no means a representative survey but our recent experience of local authority planning departments on matters of approach and helfulness suggest, and this is not just because we have secured results:
Camden Planning Enforcement: 5 Stars.
Christchurch Planning Reception: 5 Stars.
Babergh Planning Reception: 5 stars.
Babergh Development Control: 4 stars.
Epping Forest Planning reception: 5 stars
Epping Forest Development Control: 1 star.
Southend on Sea Planning Reception: 4 stars after security.
Braintree Planning Reception: 5 stars down to 3 stars.
Brentwood Forward Planning: 5 stars.
Havering Planning Development Control: Zero.
Havering Planning Reception: 4 stars.
Castle Point Planning Reception: 2 Stars.
Castle Point development control: Zero.
Hackney Planning Enforcement: -5 stars.
Hackney Development Control: - 5 stars.
Hackney Planning Reception: 5 star for politeness Zero for booked files not there and the wretched 20p copier.