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Minister Announces a Review of the Planning System 17 October 2008

John Shimmin, Minister for Local Government and the Environment, has announced details of a Review of how the Planning System operates on the Island.

His Department has published a Consultation Paper which admits that the current planning service does not meet the aspirations of either the Members of the Department or its staff. He is calling for all those with an interest in the operation of the Planning System to make comments and suggestions as to how it might be improved.

The Department is also publishing a report containing details of a “peer review” carried out by the Improvement and Development Agency for local government in England (IDeA). This review was the result of Tynwald calling for an Independent Review of the Planning System following the debate on the handling of the “Poacher’s Pocket” planning application. The “IDeA report” was produced after taking evidence from a variety of stakeholders, including Local Authorities, applicants, objectors, developers, and special-interest groups, and makes many recommendations for improving the system, including changes to the operation of Planning Committee meetings, changes to third-party rights of appeal, and prioritising the e enforcement workload.

The Consultation Paper seeks comments on both the independent report and the changes to the planning system which were made in 2005. These changes included holding Planning Committee meetings in public, the introduction of site notices, extended Permitted Development rights for householders, higher standards for planning applications, and the introduction of Enforcement Notices.

The Department itself makes a number of suggestions for further change, including extending Permitted Development to a level similar to that in the rest of the British Isles, the introduction of a separate, faster stream for householder applications, and the introduction of an opportunity for applicants and objectors to address the Planning Committee.

Whilst acknowledging the need for change and improvement, Mr Shimmin nevertheless drew attention to the disparity between the “benchmark” of 150 planning applications a year per officer which is used in England, and the current workload of some 480 applications per planning officer on the Island. Clearly the number of applications must be reduced, the number of officers increased or a combination of both must be undertaken if an efficient service is to be achieved.

Comments or suggestions are invited on any of the matters in either document, and should be submitted by 15th December, either to planningreview@dlge.gov.im or by post to Review of the Planning System at the Department’s offices in Murray House on Mount Havelock in Douglas. Copies of the documents may be viewed on or downloaded from the Department’s web-site at http://www.gov.im/dlge/planning/plan/latestreview.xml or purchased (price £2) from Murray House.

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