New shared planning service for Greater Cambridge moves a step closer
The establishment of a shared planning service between Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council – which would be one of the largest district council planning teams in the country – has moved a big step closer with the publication of a joint report.
The report, being presented to Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee today (20 March), outlines the next steps to be taken towards implementing the new planning service by 2018-19.
The two councils agreed in 2015 to work to build a shared ‘Greater Cambridge’ planning service which would serve to:
- Deliver additional capacity and specialist skills needed in areas including quality design and environmental protection
- Support the councils’ commitment to high quality development - through helping to attract and retain staff and by providing the skills needed to strengthen the councils’ negotiating position
- Provide better customer service, at a time of significant development activity across the area.
The transformation towards a shared service will be partly funded by the income derived from national changes to planning application fees being introduced later this year.
Since it was first proposed in 2015, the need for a shared service offering greater capacity has increased for several reasons, including:
- The government’s continuing emphasis on supporting housing delivery and economic growth
- The establishment of a new mayoral Combined Authority for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and the continuing work of the Greater Cambridge City Deal, both of which will be initiating new infrastructure to link up existing communities, as well as large scale jobs and housing projects across the area
- The growing expectations around the quality and timeliness of development from communities and the development sector, coupled with growing scarcity and competition for the best planning officers.
Progress towards creating a shared planning service has already been made in a number of ways, including the appointment of a Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development for both councils in 2016.
Work has also started on exploring the way the service might be organised and in aligning the two councils’ planning services ahead of formal integration.
This would be the latest of a number of shared services involving the two councils which to date have included waste and recycling, ICT, building control, legal services, and a joint Housing Development Agency for building new homes. The development of shared finance and shared housing management services are also under consideration, while a shared internal audit service is under development.
Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council and Executive Councillor for Strategy and Transformation said: “The proposed Greater Cambridge Planning Service will not only be a hugely important joint project for ourselves and South Cambridgeshire District Council building on our joint Local Plans work, but it would also create one of the largest and most effective district council planning teams in the UK.
“This reflects the need for resilient and flexible planning delivery that is fully equipped to deal with the growth we are seeing across Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire, while delivering the extra affordable housing we need so badly, and protecting and improving our unique local quality of life. This move is also essential to build the teamwork we need to get the best for our communities from the many current and future development projects whose impacts cross way over our councils’ boundaries.”
The district council for Cambridge.