The Chronicle, Thursday, 18th August, 2011. www.chronicleseries.co.uk 5
Planning applications processed too slowly
By Kayleigh Williams Complaints about oor service and missed targets plague Cheshire East Council’s planning and housings department.
A report released to the council Cabinet showed that it scored badly in its 2010/2011 targets in eight out of nine areas such as the number of minor planning applications processed including home extensions and developments with less than 11 dwellings.
And the “Chronicle” has also received complaints from residents whose most common concern was the oor communication they felt they had received from the planning department about a variety of issues.
The Cheshire East Outturn Performance Summary 2010/2011 showed that Cheshire East planning and housing missed most of its targets this year due to “computer system upgrades, restructuring following the Local Government Review in April 2009, and physical staff moves.”
The Local Government Review refers to the merger of Congleton, Macclesfield, Crewe and Nantwich Borough Councils to form Cheshire East.
The report scored the following as “red”, meaning performance did not meet national indicators:
● County matters applications processed, 70%, delivered 18.18%.
● Net additional homes provided, target 650, delivered 466.
● Number delivered (gross) target, 379, delivered 290.
● Minor applications processed, target 81%, delivered 68.80%.
● Other applications processed, target 87%, delivered 80.88%.
● Supply of ready to develop housing sites, target 105%, delivered 89.50%.
● Number of households living in temporary condition, target 12, delivered 14.
● Previously developed land that’s been derelict for more than five years, target 0.38%, delivered 0.50%.
The performance assessment was measured as either red, amber and green, where green met or exceeded the target, amber being close to the target and red not meeting the target.
The only area that was scored as amber was major (more than 10 dwellings or large developments such as the shopping centres) planning applications processed, where the target was 62.0% and the applications delivered was 60.71%.
Two residents who didn’t want to be named called the “Chronicle” within days of the council Cabinet discussing the report, to complain about separate issues.
One man from Congleton said: “I put in an application for the change of use from offices to residential. I have not received a decision in four months and it is supposed to take six to eight weeks.
“I’ve tried to contact them, I leave messages and they say they will get back but they never do. They just don’t answer our calls or return them.
“I just don’t know what the case officer is playing at, a month after it went in they asked me for more details which I’ve passed on. I’ve just been messed about.”
Another resident from Somerford said he was ignored by planning enforcement officers when he tried to complain about a development that was being worked on outside the permitted hours.
He said: “I’ve got a builder doing a new house next door to me and he is stepping outside of the operating hours. The planning permission states that he can only operate between 8am and 6pm but he is regularly flouting this and the council officer just doesn’t seem to care.
“I accept that if a shipment of concrete arrives at 5.55pm you should be allowed to work through to get the work done, that’s just common sense. However when this guy and his four contractors turn up at 7.30am and just start hammering away on a Saturday morning it just isn’t fair.”
The man said he first contacted the council in January and was asked to keep a log of incidents, however he didn’t bother.
He said: “What good is keeping a log? All that happened is I tell the officer and he said ‘well so what? They were there at 7.30am it doesn’t mean they were working’.”
Cheshire East said i t had resolved the first complaint and the application was passed on Monday, 8th August, just days after the “Chronicle” first got in touch on Thursday, 4th August.
With regards to the second complaint, Coun Rachel Bailey, Cabinet member with responsibility for safer and stronger communities, said: “Where residents have concerns about issues that they think may be breaching planning conditions, we usually ask them to keep a log of the incidents. Without this assistance from local residents action becomes very difficult.
“We have spoken to the developer about deliveries being made before 8am, which seems to be the main problem in this instance.
“Unfortunately developers cannot always control the precise times of deliveries. All reasonable steps have been taken to address concerns around this development.
“Many construction activities are inherently noisy and, as such, a degree of disturbance and disruption is to be expected.
“The council is able to take action where construction noise occurs outside of permitted hours, and whilst we have received other enquiries regarding this site, the callers have confirmed that the noise is occurring during the permitted hours.”
Both of the people who contacted us said they had problems contacting the people they were supposed to be liaising with and were only given email addresses.
There is a postal address that can be given out for correspondence if it is requested.
The “Chronicle” has publ ished letters in recent edit ions from people complaining about the difficulty gett ing in touch with the council’s switchboard.
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Reservoirs: stay safe, stay out, says United Utilities A hard-hitting Facebook campaign showing floral tributes left to a drowned teenager has een launched to urge young eople not to risk their lives by cooling off in reservoirs.
Eight people have tragically drowned in North West reservoirs over the past four years, and water company United Utilities is determined to hammer home the message that reservoir bathing can be fatal.
Ads featuring the striking imagery will target teenage Facebook users in the North West over the summer.
Mark Byard, United Utilities’ health and safety manager, said: “The campaign shows the tragic aftermath of a reservoir drowning, and the lifelong pain it causes family and friends. Although the imagery and accounts in the ads are fictitious, they are based closely on real incidents.
“Reservoirs can seem inviting — particularly on hot days — but cooling off in them can be deadly. The water is so cold that people’s bodies can quickly shut down, and even the strongest swimmers can find themselves in difficulties. Hidden currents and ledges can make it extremely hard to get out.
“So far this summer, we have already had several ‘near misses’ in our reservoirs. With the school holidays now in full swing, we want to remind people to stay safe, by staying out.”
United Utilities has more than 180 reservoirs across the North West.
● Reservoir temperatures rarely get above 10 degrees, even in summer. They are cold enough to take the breath away, make arms and legs numb, and induce hypothermia.
● Reservoirs are often extremely deep, with sudden drops.
● There may be hidden currents from water pipes below the surface.
● Hidden obstacles, such as machinery for water treatment, broken glass or other rubbish, are commonplace.
● The sides of reservoirs are often very steep.
● Invisible algae can often build up at the water edge, producing toxins that cause skin rashes and stomach upsets.
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