It seems that the call to our local MP followed up by an email to the local authority Councillor, may have caused a reaction!
The team leader at the local authority planning department called us directly. He was very apologetic and open in his comments. He explained that the department had recently been suffering some staffing issues and that the planning officer that had originally been assigned to our case (back in March) was actually going to be leaving his role altogether later this week. Of course, he did not divulge full details, but the inferences were strongly that it was felt that the standards had fallen far short of expectations and that firm action would be taken accordingly.
Even though we had suffered such a long delay, this open and honest update from the team leader was very much appreciated. We had reached the ‘not knowing is the worst part’ stage, so any news was good news.
The team leader went on to say that he had already assigned a new planning officer to our case and that he had instructed that planning officer to issue a final decision within two weeks at the most. We stressed the delay that we had suffered to date and asked whether it would be possible for the planning officer to have an open and active dialogue with us to resolve any potential issues on-the-fly as opposed to issuing a final decision without much consultation within the next two weeks, which might then need us to re-plan and re-apply, causing further delay. He was very amenable to this and said we need not worry, there would be an active dialogue to ensure things were progressed quickly and appropriately.
It seems the MP and Councillor interjection really did work! So in summary, to get the very much dead ball rolling again, what helped us was:
- Contacted our local MP to highlight that a government prescribed deadline had not been met and furthermore the prescribed procedure in such a case had not been followed.
- Contacted our Councillor, the leader of the local authority, as advised by our MP, to notify him of the same failings by the council’s planning department.
- We kept both emails relatively short (under 500 words in total) and focused on the breach in respect of prescribed deadlines.
- We did not make any personal statements or angry rants about the disappointment etc – simply the serious failure to meet the prescribed deadline as set by the government and council and the further failure to notify us of such or request an extension.
- We also put factual statements about dates and the number of phone calls and emails sent to the planning department together with the number of responses received (nil!).
We have yet to find out if all this has actually made a change because so far of course we are still awaiting a decision on our planning application, which is long overdue. What we do know however is that the emails we sent to the MP and Councillor appear to have triggered some response from the planning department as opposed to nothing at all!
We hope this helps any of you also suffering an undue delay in waiting for a response to your planning application.