Cash will boost Coastal planning

A SIX figure cash boost looks set to speed up planning decisions in Suffolk Coastal.The Government grant of £451, 176 will go towards improving planning services in the district and is part of a national pot of £130 million being shared out among councils across the country depending on how well they are meeting targets.

A SIX figure cash boost looks set to speed up planning decisions in Suffolk Coastal.

The Government grant of £451, 176 will go towards improving planning services in the district and is part of a national pot of £130 million being shared out among councils across the country depending on how well they are meeting targets.

Last year the council only got £76,000.

Improvements will include faster decisions on planning applications, more planning information on its website, and an improved planning help desk service at the council's main offices.

Ivan Jowers, chairman of the development control committee said: "The massive increase on last year's grant is reward for our work that is being done to put in place an up to date local plan, and the improvements in the performance on major and minor and other planning applications during the period of October 2002 to September 2003."

The grant – equal to nearly one-tenth of the money the authority will get this year from council taxpayers – is still subject to confirmation by the government but would clearly be a massive boost for the council and its planning services.

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The council already has a three-year improvement plan and the grant would enable that to be implemented sooner rather than later.

The grant would also allow more consultation across the district as work continues on replacing the existing local plan, the area's development blueprint.

Andy Smith, cabinet member for planning said: "This is an unexpected but much-needed input of funding.

"Schemes such as making our planning services much more accessible to the public, both to visitors to our offices and also through our website, can now be brought forward. We will begin drawing up a detailed action plan to use this funding to bring about further improvements to our service."

In January, a best value inspection of the planning service rated it as offering a fair service, while last month's comprehensive performance assessment first stage also identified that there was scope for improvements.

n. Do you think there is room for improvement at Suffolk Coastal? Write to us at Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.