Coastal wins high marks

GOVERNMENT watchdogs today praised planners in the Suffolk Coastal area - and gave them a two-star rating.Two years ago the planning department was facing criticism from official bodies for the time it was taking to decide applications.

GOVERNMENT watchdogs today praised planners in the Suffolk Coastal area - and gave them a two-star rating.

Two years ago the planning department was facing criticism from official bodies for the time it was taking to decide applications.

Earlier this month it received a provisional award of nearly £220,000 in recognition of how well it was performing, and now the Audit Commission has praised it for its continuing improvements

“This is yet further official recognition of what a good job we have done in improving our planning services at Suffolk Coastal, with a series of changes that have made us both more customer-friendly and quicker in reaching decisions,” said council deputy leader Andy Smith.

“The report recognises that we have a good range of planning advice on offer, that we are effective in most cases when consulting and engaging with customers, and that our speed of dealing with applications has improved - indeed the facts show that we are in the top quarter of councils in the country.

“I am also particularly pleased that the report states that we are providing good value for money in relation to the quality of our service and the outcomes it delivers. There are also helpful tips on how we can become even better.”

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The commission rated the planning service as good, with promising prospects for improvement, after a thorough inspection of all aspects of the service was carried out, giving it two stars.

According to inspector Edwina Childs, the service “is now serving local people well” and is “helping to maintain the character of the area while at the same time promoting new housing and employment opportunities”.

Recent statistics showed 78 per cent of major planning applications at Suffolk Coastal are determined within 13 weeks, compared to a national target of 60pc and a national average of 70pc. It also exceeded the target for minor applications by 14pc.

Last year the council received 2,239 planning applications and 360 reports to its enforcement team. It deals with 20pc more applications than the average council, while its internationally recognised countryside makes its planning work more difficult.

Do you think Suffolk Coastal's planners do a good job? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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