Action plan unveiled to transform planning services following peer reviewPlanning and building control
15 December 2022
The results of an external review of North Northamptonshire Council’s planning service will be discussed at the authority’s Executive next week.
The peer review – by the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) - was done at the request of the authority as part of its drive to transform the planning service and deliver continuous improvement.
It is recognised that the planning service is in a period of transition as the five former legacy authority planning services come together to form a single NNC planning service.
The Executive will be asked to consider and approve a plan to act on recommendations. This draft plan includes a transformation strategy, which will be pivotal in how the planning service can be developed.
The draft plan also addresses planning governance and decision making arrangements as well as how the planning service interacts with towns, parishes and other partner organisations. A wider transformational review of the ICT planning systems was also identified as a key task for the future.
We requested the peer review as it is an excellent way of providing a learning opportunity for the council which is important if we are to benchmark how we are doing at the moment and to get expert advice on how to progress so we can transform the planning service and deliver continuous improvement.Cllr David Brackenbury, the council’s Executive Member for Growth and regeneration
There were many positive points that the review noted – mainly the committed and hardworking planning staff but there were also several areas where we needed to improve.
The action plan that has been developed is comprehensive and will be a challenge to deliver but I am confident that we will be able transform the planning function to make it fit for the future. I would also like to thank the Peer Review team for their expert analysis and also would like to thank everyone who engaged in this process.
The peer review was requested by the chief executive and myself as they are a great tool to garner expert advice from others in the sector so that services can transform in the right way.Cllr Jason Smithers, Leader of the Council
Members, staff and partner organisations all came together to work on the review which demonstrates our commitment in working towards continuous improvement. For this I would like to thank all involved.
Our planning function is an essential component in driving forward growth in North Northamptonshire so it’s important that it’s developed in a robust and consistent way and I thank the peer team for their helpful and constructive feedback and report.
The review outlined how the Covid-19 pandemic had had a lasting effect and presented significant challenges for the council and its ability to stabilise after forming in April 2021 as a result of local government reorganisation in Northamptonshire. This in turn has slowed service transformation.
The peer review highlighted several good areas of the function including committed staff and some excellent customer relations. It also noted that the council was doing well in delivering planned growth across the area and that the authority had a good track record of bringing in funding, such as from the Towns Fund.
However, it also noted several inconsistencies including relationships with partner organisations and in customer experience.
And while it was accepted that while there was a commitment to transforming the planning service, a clearer plan about how or when this would happen needs developing.
PAS also noted that while performance against government targets appeared strong, the council needed to capture more data and performance management to help with the wider transformation needed across the service.
PAS is part of the Local Government Association and is funded by government. Among other activities, PAS undertake peer reviews for local planning authorities.
Peer reviews can be done for any service and operate through a ‘sector led' approach, where local authorities help each other to continuously improve.