North Norfolk District Council leader Keith Johnson.

North Norfolk District Council hits back after Hilary Benn names it among slowest three planning authorities in country

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
5.35 PM

North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) has hit back at criticism in parliament labelling it as one of the slowest planning authorities in the country.

Labour MP Hilary Benn, talking in the House of Commons earlier this month, named the authority, together with Torbay, and Kensington and Chelsea, as the “slowest decision makers on major applications.”

Mr Benn was speaking during a debate on the proposed Growth and Infrastructure Bill.

But NNDC leader Keith Johnson said 96pc of all planning decisions were dealt with well within the 26 weeks specified by government.

Mr Benn’s comment related to major applications which, by their nature, had a significant impact and tended to be controversial. The comments were based on old performance data, relating to last year, when NNDC did recognise some “shortcomings”.

Since then the council had made changes. Some of the time-consuming detailed work involved in concluding negotiations was now resolved more quickly.

Extra staffing had already been agreed to help the planning service, which was also due to undergo a fundamental review early in the new year.

Mr Johnson added: “I am confident that these changes will make our planning processes even more effective and deliver the new homes and jobs that the district needs.”

There had been just one appeal against NNDC’s major decisions in the past 18 months, he added. “These projects are complex and require careful negotiation with many agencies to bring them to fruition.

“We try to look for long-term solutions for the benefit of the community as a whole rather than simply refuse applications to meet arbitrary targets.”