Portsmouth MP Penny Mordaunt demands answers over 'insane' planning backlog
A CITY MP has called for answers from the council over an ‘insane’ backlog of planning applications, that is delaying some projects by a whole year.
Portsmouth North representative Penny Mordaunt has asked for a meeting with the chief executive of Portsmouth City Council to find out why around 600 cases are still waiting to be dealt with.
It comes after the department was met with delays caused by concerns around nitrogen pollution in 2019 and then the coronavirus pandemic, as well as low staff numbers.
As reported last year, the authority was set to spend around £50,000 on an outside contractor - Terraquest - to speed things up.
In a letter to council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Ms Mordaunt said: ‘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 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.
‘Consequently they have had to go onto another more expensive bridging loan until a decision has been made.’
Concerns have been raised in the trade about the future of the industry in Portsmouth.
Director of city-based Hop Architects, Nick Hopper, said: ‘No other authorities are anything near as slow as Portsmouth when it comes to this. We submitted a standard application for a single-storey extension in Southsea last April and we still don't know what's happening with it.
‘Around the same time we put in a similar application in Regiate and that has since been approved and construction has almost finished.
‘They've tried to use Covid as an excuse but they were slow before then. And now, even though they've spent all this money on a contractor nothing seems to have moved.
‘We keep getting told our application is just at the bottom of a list. There's just a complete logjam, it’s insane.
‘It’s getting to the point where we think we might not work within Portsmouth any more as it is not worth the hassle. And I know this is affecting clients, builders, supply chains and everyone else in the industry.’
The city council told The News on top of bringing in Terraquest in October it has recruited two new planning officers, hired six temporary officers and reviewed the system for determining applications, to allow for quicker decisions.
In response to Ms Mordaunt’s letter, Ian Maguire - the council’s assistant planning director - said: ‘Our planning team has worked very hard under extraordinary circumstances to keep development in the city going. Since the measures in October were introduced, we have been able to significantly reduce the amount of time it takes for a planning application to be processed.’
Ms Mordaunt also requested the council publish its waiting times on applications.