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Friday, 7th January 2022

Review of LCC planning performance points to 13 areas for improvement

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 The Chief Executive of Louth County Council, Joan Martin.

Report finds Louth County Council’s planning function has performed well but that ‘some improvement is needed’ 

Louth County Council Chief Executive Joan Martin has welcomed a performance review report on the Council’s planning systems and procedures which includes 13 recommendations on how they could be improved. 

The report, which was published recently by the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR), the State’s independent oversight body for planning, found that Louth County Council’s planning function has performed well but that ‘some improvement is needed’. 

This general review is the second to be conducted as part of the pilot phase of the OPR’s review programme. The report, which was conducted during 2021 considers the authority’s performance in the context of 11 key operational processes in planning service delivery. 

Some of the review’s key findings include:

  • Louth County Council’s Planning Department is delivering key statutory functions on an effective basis.
  • The Council has effective procedures in place to facilitate consistent decision-making across the various development management functions.
  • The Council is proactive in accessing funding streams, such as the Rural and Urban Regeneration Development Funds
  • Due to proactivity around housing delivery and the level of extant planning permissions for housing, Louth has the potential to play its part in addressing the current housing issues
  • The Council’s development management function is being delivered on an effective basis with the timeliness of decision-making generally consistent with national averages
  • There are well-developed systems in place to operate its planning enforcement function with outputs that are generally in line with or an improvement on national trends.
  • The Council has a strong customer focus that includes publishing planning decisions and making received planning applications available online. A significant number of pre-planning consultations are facilitated each year, roughly between 300 and 400.

Joan Martin, Chief Executive of Louth County Council said: “The Council welcomes the report and findings of the OPR performance review. Louth County Council’s planning department operates in a complex and demanding environment, and this is highlighted in the report. The Council is committed to developing a robust implementation plan arising from the recommendations and findings of the review.”

In its report the OPR says:

“...It is our general finding that the planning department is generally delivering key statutory functions on an effective basis, with the core development management and enforcement functions being delivered within the expected range of national performance trends.

To the extent that a rating of ‘some improvement needed’ has been applied, this categorisation recognises that, while such functions are being generally delivered effectively, aspects of procedural weaknesses were identified, which could be mitigated by way of a variety of actions specified.

“...the overarching recommendation arising from this review is that the Council would take the opportunity to conduct such an internal evaluation, taking on board the report’s various findings and recommendations, with a view to strengthening the planning department’s strategic management structures and to in order to build greater levels of operational control and organisational resilience.

This process, which should be developed by end-June 2022, should include:

  • setting out a range of actions with regard to internal management systems, including staff development and training;
  • ensuring that robust controls are in place to safeguard and improve procedures for service delivery;
  • establish a basis for deployment of required resources over both the short (1-2 years) and longer term (2-3 years); and
  • placing a renewed and ongoing focus on measuring progress and engendering a culture of continuous improvement.

The full report can be found here.

 

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