Digital transformation helps planning team adapt successfully to new ways of working
Virtual inspections, digital imaging and online meetings helped Shropshire Council’s planning team operate successfully during lockdown.
Fresh measures introduced by the council have also seen an improvement to performance, with a 22 per cent time-saving rate for the processing of straightforward applications.
A report going to a meeting of Full Council on Thursday (24 September 2020) also reveals that more than nine in 10 applications sent to the council are approved.
Shropshire Council is the largest planning authority in the West Midlands region outside Birmingham, with a geography larger than Luxembourg and more than 5,500 regulatory decisions issued each year.
More than seven in 10 appeals against decisions made by the council are also dismissed.
Gwilym Butler, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for communities, place planning and regulatory services, will inform councillors that services under his portfolio have had to completely adapt to a new way of working due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He said there are a number of positive ways the service has changed, including closer working with the voluntary and community sector.
“The local response to coronavirus saw many new community groups being established to offer support to those in most need, and existing groups responding by quickly changing how they offer support.
“As Cabinet member, I would like to take the opportunity to recognise and congratulate the voluntary and community sector. I recognise how fortunate we are locally with the resilience of many of our communities.”
Gwilym Butler added that another success in the area had been more than £2.3 million of Community Infrastructure Levy being handed out, with a further £15,742,345 allocated for schemes to come.
Projects to have benefited so far include classroom extensions at Baschurch Primary School and Shifnal Primary School; a new drainage scheme at Birchmeadow Park in Broseley; a new roundabout as part of the provision of 50 new homes in Shawbury; construction of a multi-use games area at Dorrington; and a replacement sports pavilion at Russell’s Meadow in Church Stretton.
“Working with colleagues across the council, other partners and stakeholders, planning services delivers time-sensitive processes to a large number of customer groups who will sometimes have different interests and objectives.
“It has continued to do this through the pandemic, working virtually across all teams.
“The Government has encouraged planning services to maintain service delivery, and teams have adapted processes where required to support this.
“In particular, building control has introduced a system of virtual inspections and an audit process utilising digital images and video inspections in place of face to face meetings.
“As regulators, the focus is getting the right development in the right place, ensuring that buildings and construction is safe and that the environmental impacts of development are properly considered through the process.”