Sun. Jul 3rd, 2022

Isle of Wight Observer News

The Island's Free Newspaper

Peer review outlines key findings and recommendations

2 min read
An independent review of the Isle of Wight Council’s planning department has outlined its main findings and recommendations ahead of a full report next month.

A Local Government Association (LGA) Peer Challenge is not an inspection but a tool for improvement, tailored to meet a council’s needs.

The team provide feedback as critical friends — not as assessors, consultants or inspectors.

The review was carried out this week — at no cost to the authority — by a councillor and senior officers from Cornwall, Colchester, the Isles of Scilly and St Albans City and District councils, as well as the LGA.

Over three days the peer review team gathered information and views from more than 24 meetings, speaking to over 74 people including a range of council staff together with councillors and external stakeholders.

The review not only looked at the council’s planning services department, but also its planning committee.

At the end of their on-site visit on Thursday, the team outlined their key findings as part of a feedback presentation ahead of the publication of a full report in around four weeks’ time.

The review recognised the council’s clear passion for getting the best outcomes for the Isle of Wight as well as the skills of its planning officers who have worked with increased applications during the pandemic.

It also identified a number of key messages and opportunities to improve. These included:

  • Urgently finalise and adopt the Island Plan.
  • Urgently review the constitution and procedural rules to effectively deliver the council’s democratic function.
  • Support this through training to embed them.
  • There is a need to rebuild trust between councillors, officers and the community.
  • Lack of communication.
  • Need for planning service improvement.

To help the council address these issues effectively, the team made several recommendations and actions for it to consider taking forward. These included:

  • A systematic review of the planning processes from start to finish to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the service.
  • Urgently review enforcement strategy to ensure better understanding for stakeholders of the powers available.
  • Consider a proactive approach to communication with all stakeholders.
  • Improve the notification process to councillors and town and parish councils of new planning applications.
  • Actively seek customer feedback.
  • Urgently address the backlog of cases including applications, pre-application advice and enforcement complaints.

Council leader, Councillor Lora Peacey Wilcox, said: “We welcome the LGA peer challenge team to the council this week. They were incredibly perceptive, thorough and very helpful.

“We have found the process extremely valuable, enabling us to reflect on the delivery of our planning services and identifying actions and opportunities to improve, building on our strengths and a range of initiatives we already have in train or in plan.

“We look forward to receiving the full report in due course.”