We supported the transformation of the newly-established North Yorkshire Council, ensuring the smooth operation and growth of their planning and placemaking services.

Merging eight councils into one

At the beginning of April 2023, eight councils in North Yorkshire merged to form one – the North Yorkshire Council. This significant change and revised structure, coupled with a re-alignment of services and new staff, had to be managed. Added to this, planning applications were taking too long to process and further investment decisions were being put on hold as a result. The previous chief planner had left at short notice, staff morale was low, and customer complaints were on the rise. North Yorkshire Council was looking to partner with an organisation that could step in, take control, and get their planning department back on track. 

Placemaking is critical to creating and managing public spaces that promote sustainable economic activity and the health, happiness and wellbeing of local communities. For this reason, we were tasked with providing effective and efficient leadership to ensure the seamless running and delivery of the council’s services and objectives. Reducing costs, implementing better business processes and improving productivity were also key contractual outcomes. At all times, it was essential to maintain close working relationships with all stakeholders and partners involved, whether internal or external. 

Leading council services with best-in-class practices

We immediately assigned one of our planning professionals to manage the planning department function of the council, consisting of over 25 planners, including development managers, senior planners, policy planners, technicians and a planning policy manager.

As part of our contract, it was vital that a ‘best-in-class’ service was provided and maintained throughout our commission. Over a period of three months, we were instrumental in:

•    ensuring statutory and local targets were met, and the high professional standards following the service’s lean review was continued 
•    representing the council in planning appeals, enquiries, compulsory purchase enquiries and legal proceedings or tribunals 
•    promoting an organisational culture to support a better customer experience
•    pro-actively managing consultation and communication within and outside the council, as well as taking a lead on major planning public consultations 
•    promoting and ensuring compliance with the council’s corporate standards, policies, procedures and processes 
•    ensuring the maintenance and compliance of professional standards
•    liaising at member level to make sure relevant cabinet members were kept in the loop of any planning issues
•    attending planning committee and other meetings when useful
•    advising the council on all planning matters, and ensuring all planning contributed fully to the economic, social and environmental well-being of the area
•    providing the innovative thinking and commercial know-how for efficient service delivery.

Part of our responsibilities included managing the budgets of various projects: £13m for the building of new homes on brownfield land, up to £2.65m to deliver affordable, low carbon homes across North Yorkshire, a £50m investment for the York Central brownfield regeneration scheme, and £7m to drive green economic growth towards becoming a carbon negative region. 

Efficiency, collaboration and growth through revitalised placemaking

A key achievement of our involvement has been in fulfilling the council’s vision, goals and values through strong leadership and a ‘can-do’ attitude, which has since permeated throughout the planning department. 

Trevor Watson,

Assistant Director of Planning at North Yorkshire Council

We employed Capita at a particularly challenging time, overseeing the transition into the new unitary authority for North Yorkshire as well as managing the usual challenges associated with a head of planning role. They provided stability in a period of much change and transition, both professionally and confidently, adequately fulfilling the multitude of responsibilities associated with a chief planner role with minimal involvement from myself.

While ensuring North Yorkshire Council’s planning department was fit for purpose, we’ve been instrumental in driving revitalised placemaking and economic growth of the area. We’ve established valuable working relationships with other council service areas, and helped provide an efficient customer focused planning service, from first contact with customers through to successful delivery on the ground. With both the council and local community happy, we had accomplished exactly what we set out to do – and then some.

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