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Norfolk councils meet to address ‘sorry history’ of planning applications

PUBLISHED: 13:04 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 13:36 09 November 2018

Breckland Council outsourced its planning department to private firm, Capita, for £35m in 2009. The future of the contract has been questioned at a meeting of Breckland Council. Pictured is Capita's office in Bournemouth. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Breckland Council outsourced its planning department to private firm, Capita, for £35m in 2009. The future of the contract has been questioned at a meeting of Breckland Council. Pictured is Capita's office in Bournemouth. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Press Association

Two Norfolk councils have met to review the “sorry history” of the past 15 months of planning applications after issues were raised about private firm Capita handling planning decisions.

Yaxham Parish Council (YPC) wrote to Breckland Council last month to request a meeting with officers due to “increasing concern” over a “systemic issue”.

Parish councillors have since met with district councillor Gordon Bambridge and council officers.

YPC chairman Peter Lowings wrote: “There has been increasing concern expressed by residents and members of YPC. This has not been the case in every application, [but] it has been sufficiently frequent that we have chosen to set out for you the sorry history of the last 15 months.”

Councillors expressed their frustration over issues including:

Controversial planning applications in Breckland, such as this one in Mattishall, led to complaints about Capita. Picture: Matthew UsherControversial planning applications in Breckland, such as this one in Mattishall, led to complaints about Capita. Picture: Matthew Usher

• An officer report into a Lanpro application for 25 homes north of Norwich Road, described as “one of the worst we have seen”;

• An application to develop land off Elm Close which was validated by Breckland Council within one day, and described as “unheard of”;

• An application for land on Dereham Road being granted, described as “one of the poorest performances by officers in handling and presenting an application”.

Vice chairman of YPC, Ian Martin, said: “We have been unhappy with Breckland’s handling of planning and have been concerned about consistency.

Councillor Gordon Bambridge. Photo: Breckland CouncilCouncillor Gordon Bambridge. Photo: Breckland Council

“We’re talking to people who don’t know the area; who are sitting hundreds of miles away and don’t have the facts.”

READ MORE: Why Capita staff 450 miles away are deciding Norfolk planning applications

He added: “We appreciated the constructive approach to the discussions and the points taken for review by Breckland, and we look forward to meeting in the new year to review progress.”

A spokesperson for Breckland Council said: “All key performance indicators related to our contract with Capita have been met routinely and we continue to work closely together on further improving the service.

Yaxham Parish Council (YPC) chairman, Peter Lowings, front left, with Maggie Oechsle, chairman of the Yaxham Neighbourhood Plan Working Group, centre, and Ian Martin, YPC vice chairman, right, at a public meeting. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYYaxham Parish Council (YPC) chairman, Peter Lowings, front left, with Maggie Oechsle, chairman of the Yaxham Neighbourhood Plan Working Group, centre, and Ian Martin, YPC vice chairman, right, at a public meeting. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“However, we take any concerns about the service being delivered very seriously and have met with representatives from the Yaxham parish to discuss their issues.

“This was a very constructive meeting and helped us to identify some ways to refine our processes and improve relationships with their parish council.

“We will be documenting agreed actions for YPC and we will be working very closely together to ensure these are progressed.”

The Yaxham village sign. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Yaxham village sign. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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