Labour deputy leader Councillor Claire douglas
Labour deputy leader Councillor Claire douglas

Councillor Claire Douglas, deputy leader of the Labour Group on York City council, has expressed criticism a lack of adequate resourcing of the council’s planning department, as it struggles to fulfill some of its key functions. She made the comments at a public meeting, outlining where already known problems are getting worse.

“The planning department is a vital part of what the council does in ensuring the city gets the right balance between homes and employment and commercial space in the city.  It also exists to ensure proper action is taken where residents or businesses are flouting planning rules.

“Unfortunately planning enforcement is so short of staff that it’s sending the wrong signal to any developers minded to break the rules.  The team currently has a backlog of cases that would take a year to get through.  But it’s vital that planning enforcement is able to take timely action to protect residents from those who think they can get away with inappropriate development lacking proper planning permission.

“Not only is planning enforcement flagging, so is building control, while the Local Plan is crumbling.  York’s submitted Local Plan is due to be considered in the coming months with the strong chance the council will have no senior planning officer to represent it, after opting to make a chief officer redundant.

“The examiners are already irritated with the council over its unresponsiveness to date, so scaling back the Local Plan team to make savings is going to send an even worse signal that the council isn’t bothered about adopting a Local Plan.  In fact, we’d go further and say the Lib Dem-led administration is actually trying to sabotage its own Local Plan for political reasons.  It’s a huge abdication of responsibility and an absence of leadership that is wasting huge amounts of money, while risking avoidable government intervention to get the job done”.

At today’s Executive Member Decision Session, Liberal Democrat councillor Andrew Waller, the executive member for Economic and Strategic Planning, sought to blame Labour for decisions around York’s draft Local Plan a decade ago, something Cllr. Douglas labelled an ‘act of desperation’ given the almost 7 unsuccessful years Liberal Democrats have been working on their own development blueprint for the city.

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