Agenda and minutes

Environment and Communities Committee - Monday, 31st October, 2022 2.30 pm

Venue: Committee Suite 1,2 & 3, Westfields, Middlewich Road, Sandbach CW11 1HZ. View directions

Contact: Helen Davies  Tel: 01270 685705 Email:

No. Item


Apologies for Absence

To note any apologies for absence from Members.



Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Quentin Abel, Councillor Jonathan Parry and Councillor Mike Benson (Councillor Mary Addison was substituting).


Declarations of Interest

To provide an opportunity for Members and Officers to declare any disclosable pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests in any item on the agenda.



There were no declarations of interest received.


Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 158 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the previous meeting held on 29 September 2022.



RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting 29 September 2022 be accepted as a correct and accurate record.



Public Speaking/Open Session

In accordance with paragraph 2.24 of the Council’s Committee Procedure Rules and Appendix on Public Speaking, set out in the Constitution, a total period of 15 minutes is allocated for members of the public to put questions to the committee on any matter relating to this agenda. Each member of the public will be allowed up to two minutes each to speak, and the Chair will have discretion to vary this where they consider it appropriate.


Members of the public wishing to speak are required to provide notice of this at least three clear working days’ in advance of the meeting.



There were no members of the public registered who wished to speak.


Local Planning Authority Review and Service pdf icon PDF 227 KB

To consider an update on the progress made in connection with the Planning Services Deep Dive Review and to set out some of the challenges, opportunities and transformational changes needed to the service.



Additional documents:


Jayne Traverse, Executive Director of Place introduced the report.  Jane Gowing, Interim Planning Service Review Lead was in attendance and had assisted in the production of the report.

The Committee was advised that a team of officers had been brought together in January 2022 and had been tasked with reviewing the planning backlog and the systems supporting the planning service.  The review was not an inspection, it was a thorough improvement focussed review of the Planning service including best practice and outside services such as Legal, Democratic Services and Statutory Consultees.

The Committee was advised the review had gathered information including published Committee meetings, face to face meetings, over 200 comments from staff including ideas for improvement.  Applicants, agents and Member’s complaints had been reviewed including the Member Advisory Panel from this Committee. 

The Committee was advised that prior to the pandemic, the service was fragile, busy and dealt with complex work.  Cheshire East Council is the eighth busiest planning service in the country and processed the most applications in the Northwest.

There were seven themes to the report recommendations:

1)    Capacity, Workload and Recruitment;

2)    Culture and Leadership, encouraging innovation;

3)    Processes and Use of Technology;

4)    Customer Experience;

5)    Policy and Governance;

6)    Members; and

7)    Managing the Transformation.


The Executive Director of Place advised that one of the major issues in relation to the backlog of applications was due to the aging ICT system and that a more modern system was in the process of being implemented.

Reassurances were given to the Committee that:

  • all major applications had been allocated to officers as they were received, but the applications held in the backlog related to minor and household applications;
  • the backlog had reduced and more applications were being processed than received;
  • the contract to procure Capita to assist with the applications had been extended, to date 1500 had been processed this way with capacity for an additional 500;
  • Career graded posts had been appointed to;
  • A 2-day fast tracking event resulted in 200 applications being determined; and
  • Site visit protocol changes had been implemented using photographs and video evidence to support applications, in line with best practice within other local authorities.


In summary, the Executive Director of Place noted that there was excellent work within the planning service and this included enthusiastic staff who were committed to Cheshire East Council.  Next steps were to implement the Modernisation Plan, it was envisaged this would evolve over time and have an officer accountable for each of the actions.  The Modernisation Plan would include additional areas to look at in more detail including Section 106, ICT Systems and Enforcement.  The Transformation Board would have oversight and drive through the outlined recommendations and this Committee would receive updates on progress.. 

The Chair welcomed the comprehensive report and how it objectively reviewed the service acknowledging the areas for attention and wide demands placed on the service.  The Chair noted that whilst some actions could happen now, some actions could take a couple  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40.