West Berkshire Council planning backlog criticised

Architects and planning applicants have criticised West Berkshire Council over its planning delays.

The authority has come under attack after it was shown to have the worst record in the country when processing applications for minor developments.

James Robinson, from the Royal Institute of British Architects, said: "Local economic activity is being stifled by this inefficiency."

The council said the problem was down to staff shortages.

Mr Robinson added: "I can't really find out what the problem is. The frustrations from this don't just rebound on the person making the [planning] application."

Graham Jones, from West Berkshire Council, said: "We would recognise that we dipped quite badly.

"We got into a situation about 18 months ago where we had a lot of our grant taken away and at the same time we froze posts in the planning department.

"West Berkshire also had a 10% increase in the number of planning applications and that created a backlog."

'Process is dreadful'

The council said it would be rapidly getting through the backlog and had increased minor applications which should be processed in eight weeks from 6% up to 65%.

Bernard Clark, from Cold Ash, was delayed getting planning permission through the council for re-building a building on his farm.

"It was among the most frustrating things I can ever recall. I began to feel really sorry for the staff there, the process is dreadful, and they're understaffed. If I ran a business like that I'd be out of business," he said.

Applicants whose applications go beyond the time limit can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate which can rule on the plan.

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