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Planning consultation still open for comments 1 December 2008

The Island's planning system could do better, according to an independent peer review report published in August this year by the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA).

In response to the report, commissioned by the Department of Local Government and the Environment, DLGE Minister, John Shimmin, called for a full and open consultation with the simple aim of making the planning system work more effectively for everyone on the Isle of Man. The consultation is now open, but the deadline for comments is December 15th 2008.

'The IDeA has identified failings in our planning system. We want to rectify those failings. DLGE staff are extremely hardworking and professional, but the system itself is out of date. This consultation is to make sure we change the right things,' said Mr Shimmin.

The peer review made 10 specific recommendations in the areas of transparency, public consultations, permitted developments, the quality of applications from the general public, and enforcement.

Some recommendations in the report may be controversial, which is why this first stage of the consultation on changing the planning system is so important. Having listened to responses arising from this stage of the consultation DLGE will draw up its own recommendations for further consultation in spring 2009.

The report, which is available from DLGE’s offices and website, highlights a range of areas in which changes could be made.

For example, should there be an extension of permitted development rights? Permitted developments are those where no formal application is necessary before development work is carried out. Should people be able to change their windows without applying for planning permission? Should your neighbour be able to build a conservatory alongside your garden or patio without you having the opportunity to object?

The report also looks at the functioning of the Planning Committee. Changes have already been made to the Committee, which now meets in public, but should applicants have the right to speak at the meeting where their application is considered? Should objectors have the chance to speak too? The report also suggests doing away with third party appeals, which would mean that once the Planning Committee has approved an application you object to you’d have no further opportunity to stop the building from taking place.

The report was called for by Tynwald following the debate on the handling of the ‘Poacher’s Pocket’ planning application. It was carried out by the Improvement and Development Agency for local government in England (IDeA). The IDeA is part of the Local Government Association. Key stakeholders were consulted as part of the report writing process, and evidence was taken from Local Authorities, applicants, objectors, developers, and special-interest groups.

Other recommendations include streamlining the planning service for householders, provision of better web-based planning, the rewriting of public guidance information in plain language, and stricter enforcement of planning rules. The report also highlights the poor quality of many planning applications from the general public and considers ways they might be improved.

The IDeA report also draws attention to the large disparity between the workload of planning caseworkers in the Isle of Man (who each manage around 480 applications per year) and England (where the case load is closer to 150 applications per year).

Clare Christian MLC, DLGE Member with responsibility for Planning and Building Control, said,

'This Planning Consultation is very important. We need to find the right balance between allowing development to happen as easily as possible without undue bureaucracy - while at the same time protecting the visual integrity of the Isle of Man. We have to make things run more smoothly and efficiently for the benefit of both DLGE staff and the general public.'

Notes:-

• Copies of the consultation 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.

• Comments or suggestions are invited on any of the matters in either document, and should be submitted by 15th December.

• They can be submitted by e-mail to: planningreview@dlge.gov.im - or by post to: Review of the Planning System, DLGE, Murray House, Mount Havelock, Douglas.

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