One of the most popular sections of Blaby District Council’s renowned website has been streamlined for residents.
To ensure an easy online experience, the Planning section has undergone a makeover to make it easier for users to make an application, search for an application and find out if you need to submit an application.
With around 1500 applications and requests made every year, Planning is one of the Council’s most popular services.
In 2015 Planning generated over 146,000 page views, accounting for almost 10% of all visits to the website.
A section has also been produced for major applications including Lubbesthorpe, for both residents and research students.
The extensive development with over 4,000 homes has a dedicated area with information on the history of the planning process and latest updates.
Blaby District Council has been released from a Government “special measures” designation following huge improvements in its planning services.
After it was designated as “poorly performing” in November 2013, the Council’s planning service has transformed its performance and is now within the top quartile of local authorities nationally.
The Government sets a target of 13 weeks for major planning applications to be determined. Any planning authority that fails to determine 30% of all such applications within this target timescale will be placed in “special measures” which means major applications can be submitted direct to the Planning Inspectorate rather than being determined locally.
At the point that Blaby District Council was designated and placed in “special measures” only 18.18% of major applications had been determined within 13 weeks over a two year period. Blaby District Council was the only district authority to be designated under this performance regime.
Working in partnership with the Government and the Planning Advisory Service, Blaby District Council has implemented an extensive programme of improvements and, when reassessed in June 2014, 62% of major applications had been determined in time over a two year period. Using this simple measure, Blaby is now the most improved planning service in the country and one of the highest performing in Leicestershire.
Cllr Tony Greenwood MBE, Portfolio Holder for Planning, Economic Development and Housing Strategy at Blaby District Council, said:
”When we were put in special measures we were at pains to stress that we prefer to work proactively with developers to ensure a high quality development rather than focus purely on an arbitrary Government timescale.
“The Council has stuck to its principals and continues to prioritise customer service and good development over speed. It’s now even clearer our approach is right; during the year of designation only one developer from approximately 50 major planning applications has chosen to apply directly to the Inspectorate rather than work with the Council.
“The improvements in planning application performance combined with our up-to-date Core Strategy, an approved urban extension of 4,250 homes and our excellent customer relationships reinforce that Blaby is an excellent planning authority.”
Enderby based Next has voiced criticism over delays it is experiencing in its plan to create hundreds of jobs by opening new stores across the country
The company wants to open up to 17 major units, combining fashion, homeware, gardening and DIY products under one roof.
Two prototype stores have already proved a success with another due to launch next spring – and bosses are keen to roll out the concept across the country. Securing planning consent from the relevant local authorities on some of the sites is being cited as the problem.
The firm’s finance director, David Keens, told local media:
“We are looking at up to 17 other sites and would like to open these over the next five years, creating hundreds of jobs,” he said.
“We have identified sites, we now need to talk to the owners of these sites. Most of them already have buildings on them, and most of them have the relevant permissions.
“The issue with some is it’s taking much longer than we would like to get through the council process and getting the permission to get these sites up and running.
“It’s well known there’s a difficult economic environment, so why should it take so long when you have a company that’s expanding and wants to create jobs?”
Mr Keens went on to say that the programme was the next big move for the company, with room for 20 units over the next 5 years.
Plans for a major new housing development in Lubbesthorpe have been approved by Blaby District Council’s Development Control Committee at their meeting on Thursday November 1.
The decision means that the planning application will now be referred to the Secretary of State, as it is a departure from the Local Plan (1999).
The development proposals are for 4,250 homes, shops, schools, community facilities, public open space, two motorway bridges (across the M1 and M69) and 21 hectares of employment land.
If the Secretary of State decides not to intervene then the permission will be granted.
During the recorded vote, 13 councillors voted in favour and four against.
The decision came as a blow to opponent groups who have been campaigning hard to halt the development, with the main objections being around issues of excessive strain on the area’s existing infrastructure and air quality.
The often tense meeting of Blaby District Council’s Development Control Committee had to be extended to over three hours due to the number of people wishing to speak. So many in fact that tickets needed to be issued, live screenings were held in two other venues, and the meeting was streamed on-line.
Councillor Jackie Dickinson spoke saying that, despite the intention of the Government’s Localism Bill being to give weight to the views of local communities and find ways to enhance and improve their areas, she felt that the resounding “No” voiced by the communities of Enderby, Leicester Forest East, Kirby Muxloe and Braunstone Town had been ignored.
Enderby resident Rob Heywood spoke saying he was deeply opposed the whole planning application saying he belived it was on the wrong sites, contained ‘largely erroneous’ supporting calculations, would cause harm to the neighbouring communities on a very big scale because of pollution, loss of agriculture.
Mr Heywood, who is a retired architect with some experience of public works, went on to say he believed the plan was “desperately over ambitious” and unlikely to be completed because schemes of such size very seldom are.
Mr Heywood said that should the Council be minded to approve the application, he would ask that a by-pass and other pieces of infrastructure be physically put in place (not just proposed or projected) before any other construction work took place. Also he expressed concern that no development should take place across land belonging to the historic Enderby Hall.
In a measured contribution to the proceedings, Mr Heywood brought his five minute time slot to a conclusuion by reminding the Council the application was in two distinct parts – Sustainable Urban Extension (SUE) and Strategic Employment Site (SES) – and they were able to make a ‘split decision’. So serious are the problems with the land use of the SES Mr Heywood strongly recommended the split decision option.
Campaigner Paul Fox, from Leicester Forest East Residents Action Group, (LFE RAG) said:
“We want houses in Leicester Forest East and around but this area just will not accommodate the amount of traffic that the new town will develop.
“We are talking about 4,250 houses, 7,000 cars, and the existing road network just cannot cope.
“The land use is 1,000 acres, which is the same size as Market Harborough.”
“Opinion is massively against this development”, he said, “Only three people of 1,371 commenting in the latest consultation were in favour of this – that’s 0.2 per cent.”
He also said it would be “highly unlikely” that the government would block the application.
Bad news. Development control committee have voted 13 4 in favour of passing the development subject to the secretary of state. The cllrs on the committee who were against it and voted for it as I quote “reluctantly” should be ashamed. Spineless…
Other comments included:
“Speechless and livid.”
“That’s devastating news. The spineless ones should be named and shamed”
“Can’t believe it – those councillors who have “reluctantly” agreed to vote for this development don’t appear to be representing the local residents who are opposed to this massive development!!!”
Scott C Smith wrote saying he was “Disgusted”. He went on to comment “…the new Localism Act has supposedly given us new rights and powers for communities and individuals; reform to make the planning system more democratic and effective; reform to ensure that decisions about housing are taken locally. Clearly none of this applied to the application”
“It’s always the ones with the most money who get their way. Residents haven’t been listened to at all.”
His wife Pat told the paper:
“I just don’t believe it. I’m stunned. How can they (councillors) sleep at night, knowing what their decision will do to people?”
Developers: “Appreciate that change causes concern”
The developers began public consultations over the plans in 2010 and a planning application was submitted in early 2011.
The plans, which include homes for families and first-time buyers as well as bungalows for the elderly, were changed because of some concerns raised during the consultation and the application was updated in May this year.
The developers, Davidsons, Hallam Land Management and Barratt David Wilson, say that apart from the new homes, the development will feature 75 acres of new woodland and 250 acres of open space and park land. The business park could create more than 1,500 jobs. The centre of the development would include space for shops, a health centre and a community centre.
Paul Burton, speaking for the developers, called the ‘New Lubbesthorpe Promoters Group’, said:
“We appreciate that change causes concern and we have sought to ensure that this is a very high quality development.
“Almost half of the site will be green space, with woodland and hedgerows providing an attractive setting and helping to maintain the separate identities of existing communities.”
Opponents have argued that the area already has enough green space, including well-farmed and arable land, woods, footpaths and wildlife habitats.
It is now up to the Secretary of State to decide whether to hold a public inquiry.
The full committee meeting, which took place at the Council offices in Narborough, will be available to watch online from Monday November 5 at www.blaby.gov.uk/webcast