Planning management could be shared between Broadland and South Norfolk

Broadland District Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Broadland District Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Two district councils are recommending merging their planning management teams despite increasing workloads.

In September Broadland and South Norfolk agreed to explore the possibility of closer working in a £25,000 feasibility study.

As part of the process, they agreed to look at any opportunities which arose, and are now recommending an interim agreement to share planning management.

It comes at a time when planning fees are set to be hiked by 20pc on January 22 - a measure set out by government in the autumn statement.

In a report to Broadland's cabinet next week, the budget and medium term financial plan states 'increasing workloads' in the planning department will require 'additional staff resource'.

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But after a vacancy emerged in South Norfolk for the planning policy manager, the two councils are recommending the creation of three new roles across both councils of head of planning, development manager and a spatial planning manager.

It would cost an additional £5,803 annually, but 'it is anticipated that in the medium and longer term opportunities will be identified to deliver savings', the report states.

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It adds: 'Due to the established collaborative history around strategic planning, a shared planning service would appear to represent a natural fit to the rationale for undertaking the collaborative working project and provide an early indicator as to the potential success of the wider project.'

It is proposed Phil Courtier, head of planning at Broadland, would take on the new role as head of planning for both councils for the 12 month interim contract.

Broadland and South Norfolk district councils said in a joint statement: 'The two planning services already have a similar structure and have more than ten years' experience of working collaboratively on strategic planning policies across the Greater Norwich area, with economic and housing growth as a shared objective.

'Although initially and in the very short term there will be a small increase in costs, this collaboration will result in reduced duplication of effort across the two councils, and the ability to share expertise reduces the need for the use of external consultants.

'Members of both councils have made it clear that the desired primary outcome from the councils working more closely together is not one of cost savings, but to transform the way the two councils deliver services. To drive economic and housing growth and to make a real difference to lives, improving outcomes for our communities.'

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