The introduction of a new planning appeals process and the development of an online planning system have been commended in an independent review carried out by the Planning Officers Society for England and Wales.
This is the second time that members of the society have been to the Island and reviewed planning practice. The first review was in 2010 and this latest report highlights the progress made in improving Jersey’s planning service in the past three years and has made a number of comments and recommendations.
The Department of the Environment has now published the findings of this latest health check for the planning system in the Island. The Minister for Planning and Environment, Deputy Rob Duhamel, said: “I am delighted that we have been able to continue our working relationship with the Planning Officers Society. This second health check has recognised the important strides we have made in improving planning performance, protocols and information technology, and its recommendations will form a useful basis to develop and evolve our planning practice over the next three years.”
The report commends the political protocols that have been put in place and confirms that Ministerial intervention has significantly reduced since 2010. It also commends the progress made towards the pre-application service.
The review also made a number of recommendations, including:
- the need for a stronger connection with the priorities of the Island’s Strategic Plan.
- more and earlier engagement with the public and States Members during the plan-making process to help shape proposals for the future.
- officer reports on planning applications should more explicitly outline how conflicting policies are interpreted and should express a clear position on where the balance of conflicting interests lie.
- the next Island Plan, masterplans and all significant development briefs should take into account the financial viability of development.
- need for a comprehensive review of permitted development and standard conditions in order to balance resources and management
The review also recommends that developers and the planning department adopt the principle of open-book evidence when considering the viability of development schemes, with evidence available to demonstrate any arguments being made.
The report concluded that the balance of decision making across heritage, environment and economic development is the correct one when compared to the Island’s strategic aims and that the balance of decision making was broadly appropriate.
As part of their appraisal, the society also reviewed previous reports to measure the department’s performance against recommendations made. The reviewers concluded that the majority of the main recommendations of the 2005 Shepley review of planning, the 2010 Planning Improvement programme, and the 2010 Regs Skip Committee of Inquiry have been put in place and that substantial improvements have been made over the last eight years.
Deputy Duhamel said: “The department has implemented a number of positive changes over the last few years. It will continue to review its service and we will carefully consider the Society’s recommendations”
The report follows an extensive programme of research, including the review of a number of planning application files and reports, and interviews with key users of the service and department and States of Jersey personnel.
The published report is available from the States website: www.gov.je/statesreports