Posted: Mon 7th Jun 2021

Council set to review Planning amid ‘range of concerns’ over its ‘performance and effective operation’ for people living in or visiting the wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Monday, Jun 7th, 2021

Wrexham Council is set to take the unusual step of conducting a specific review into how the Planning Committee and Planning Services work.

A third strand to the review will look at how the council ran the Local Development Plan process.

The review proposals specifically reference “concerns around overall performance of planning and the resources available to deliver member and public aspirations” and “issues around the ways of working between officers, members and the public.”

Disquiet from some councillors over how Planning takes place at Wrexham Council has been brewing, with one member going as far as putting forward what was in effect a motion of no confidence – however we are told it was not tabled as it was seen as specifically directed at council officers.

The conduct of the Planning Committee has also raised eyebrows. In February we documented the alleged ‘aggressive’ nature of one contribution, with another stating officers were effectively accused of misleading councillors. The committee chairman also called a retired army major ‘bloody old fool’, prompting complaints, with eyebrows often raised at how business is conducted and how officers are treated.

Part of the Local Development Plan was hammered by Inspectors in one of the most awkward meetings we have observed, with a motion wanting to in effect call a vote of confidence was not included in a debate – a move branded a ‘gag’ on democracy.

Wrexham Council’s Executive Board are set to give the review the green light tomorrow, with the report before them explaining: “Elected members have highlighted a range of concerns regarding the performance and effective operation of the Planning Committee, the Planning Service and the Local Development Plan process.

“In order to consider these concerns in a robust and holistic way and to determine any actions for improvement, a three part review of Planning is proposed.”

First up is a review of the committee itself starting shortly, which will “involve the Chair and Vice Chair of Planning Committee and will also seek input from the Monitoring Officer, a Legal officer and Members. A review of the Planning service will take place between October 2021 to February 2022 and “will involve independent peer review and will focus on Development Control, but will also include consideration of budget, resources and outcomes/standards achieved, leading to an assessment of value for money”.

The last bit to be looked at will be the lessons learnt review of the Local Development Plan process (February to June 2022) which could possibly be after the adaptation of the plan.

The review of Planning will also consider any feedback provided by the public – however only those who have used the council’s Complaints and Compliments processes rather than any wider call for feedback.

The review will be led by the Chief Executive, with ‘oversight’ from the portfolio holder for Planning Cllr David Kelly and the Leader of the Council Cllr Mark Pritchard.

The outcomes are hoped to be ones that will “identify future key improvement priorities for the service” and which can actually be achieved, and when.

Councillors and officers could get some blunt feedback as well, as the “priorities and expectations for Planning” will be “clearly communicated” at the end of the review.

Findings will be reported to Executive Board – and to Scrutiny and Governance and Audit Committees where requested.

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