Concern over Hartlepool Borough Council planning delays

Eric Pickles

Eric Pickles

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COUNCIL bosses have defended the time it takes the local authority to make planning decisions after new Government figures revealed the variation across the region.

Hartlepool Borough Council is among the worst in the North-East, with only 32.4 per cent of major applications being decided with 13 weeks - the target set by ministers.

The best performer is Stockton, which settled 87.4 per cent of bids within three months, over a 21-month period to last March.

It means Hartlepool Council is at risk of being stripped of its planning powers, under new changes brought in by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles which could see responsibility handed to central planning inspectorate.

Mr Pickles has threatened to act against any council falling short of the 30 per cent threshold based on more up to date figures published in the Autumn.

But planning chiefs in Hartlepool have defended their record, and say only seven per cent of decisions for major developments have been overturned at appeal in the last two years.

A council spokesman said: “We strive to provide a fair and reasonable planning service to developers to encourage economic growth, rather than choosing the potential alternatives of either approving an application which is not appropriate for the town or refusing an application because it may not be determined within set timescales.

“Hartlepool Council works with developers to encourage the best form of development for the town and whilst we acknowledge the drive to speed up decision-making, we also appreciate the need for co-operation and appropriate development.

“Out of 27 major developments determined in Hartlepool in the last two years, two went to appeal and were allowed.

“This means that seven per cent of determined major developments were overturned at appeal.

“A 20 per cent rate of major applications being overturned on appeal is currently the criteria for placing a planning authority in “Special Measures”.

“Naturally, we would always be concerned about the potential for being placed in “Special Measures” and as a consequence we regularly review working practices to ensure that all decisions made are appropriate and timely.”