A greater focus needed on planning department

Today I have written to the Leader of the City Council and to the Chief Executive, David Williams regarding the very serious issues and concerns relating to the Portsmouth City Council Planning Department.

Dear Gerald,

I am writing to you as I have ongoing concerns about delays to planning applications.

I recognise that the planning department has been under huge strain following the nitrates issue and the demands placed on the wider council during the last 12 months. I have met with planning on the 18th December 2020 and 31st March 2021 to flag concerns about the backlog of applications.

On each occasion, I have been given reassurance that the department is well on course to catch up, or latterly, has caught up. However, my casework tells a different story.

One example is of a developer who is still waiting on a decision for an application placed in July 2020.They have spent many hours and around £150,000 on the development to convert it to a 7 bed co-living property. They purchased the property on a 12-month bridging loan with the intention of refinancing onto a mortgage once the works were completed and planning permission was in place.

However, due to delays with the planning department this has not been possible, and consequently they have had to go onto another more expensive bridging loan until a decision has been made.

Although unoccupied, the developer must continue paying the bills including council tax, gas, electric and the bridging loan, with no income coming in from the property. This is proving to be a huge strain on the business, and they are unsure how much longer they can continue doing this.

The same company was going to purchase a derelict property and turn it into student halls, however, due to the delays experienced they have decided against this, meaning that the property is still derelict.

There are some massive issues that the department has to deal with in the coming months and I am keen that we get the property and construction industry back in action to assist with the COVID recovery.

Could we perhaps meet to discuss along with David Williams as I do think this area needs some greater focus.

I would also request that the council publish its current waiting times on applications as this would help provide clarity and potentially reassurance to the sector.

Yours sincerely,

Penny Mordaunt MP

Cc. David Williams, Chief Executive, Portsmouth City Council david.williams@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

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