Planning backlog in Harrogate blamed on council staff shortages and rise in applications

A planning backlog at Harrogate Borough Council is being blamed on a "double whammy" of staffing shortages and rise in applications.

Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 4:52 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 5:17 pm
Harrogate Borough Council's headquarters on St Luke's Mount.

The authority is asking for patience as its depleted planning department works through a long list of applications which have seen a recent 20% rise when compared with previous years.

Liberal Democrat councillor Pat Marsh, leader of the council's opposition party, told a meeting on Monday that residents were becoming "frustrated" with the delays but added she was reassured action was being taken.

She said: "This is being noticed by a lot of residents who have got planning applications in.

"There is a lot of frustration and I have had several people contact me saying this is taking too long.

"But this council isn't just sitting still and doing nothing."

A report to Monday's meeting of the council's overview and scrutiny committee said the planning department had job adverts out for the five vacancies it is currently trying to fill.

However, councillors admitted it could prove difficult to attract suitable candidates due to the uncertainties surrounding local government reorganisation which will mean the council is abolished by April 2023.

The report to Monday's meeting said: "Planning applications are all showing as off target.

"This has been because the service is receiving 20% more applications than has been experienced in previous years.

"The service also experiences a high staff turnover which means the service has not been fully staffed since the review in March 2020.

"Agency staff contracts have been extended and the service has adverts for five new members of staff."

The council aims to process all major applications within 13 weeks and all minor applications within 8 weeks.

Latest figures show 67% of major applications and 81% of minor applications met this aim between April and June this year.

Both of these were against a percentage target of 85%.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter