We’re helping Folkestone and Hythe District Council to deliver a range of major planning applications, supporting its development management team through the entire planning application process and stepping in to provide additional resources when needed.
Capita has worked very successfully with the council in the past, focusing on smaller schemes such as householder and minor applications. Given the success of these projects, the quality of work we’ve delivered over the years and the level of trust we’ve gained in the process, we’ve now been called in to provide planning services at a more complex, principal planner level. We’re supporting the Folkestone and Hythe team to progress complicated major planning applications and performance agreements (PPAs), on time and within statutory targets.
Before our involvement, the council was struggling with a lack of resources and experienced employees, which meant it was struggling to consistently meet the targets and timeframes set by local government. A backlog of applications had built up in the system, developers were unhappy, councillors were demanding updates and revenues were decreasing.
Since the start of our 12-month contract, we’ve been using resources from our Northern Ireland (Belfast) hub to deliver our bespoke planning services remotely, with no impact on project delivery. We’re responsible for all aspects of the council’s planning process, from pre-application advice to taking a major planning application - like a care home or large residential scheme - through to decision, including any post-decision work such as addressing planning appeals. We’re also continually liaising with senior council officers and elected members to make sure that decisions are made on time, providing the district with much-needed homes, jobs, infrastructure and investment.
We believe in going the extra mile and providing a tailored solution that meets the needs of our clients, both now and in the future. In this case, we’re providing the flexibility to scale resources up or down as required, and our experienced planning officers are working alongside the council’s existing team to ensure that all major applications are progressed at pace and to the quality expected from senior council officers and members. Our team leaders are also actively engaging with them through regular site visits.
Already, we’ve made some significant inroads.
In March 2019, an application on land at Smiths Medical UK was made to the local planning authority (LPA), for 97 homes, up to 153 sqm of office space and a 66-bed care home. Progress on the application had been very slow, so we became case officer on the scheme. In less than three months, we negotiated the scheme with the agent, agreed all outstanding matters (some of which had been ongoing for 18 months), and liaised with statutory consultees and third parties to allow the application to progress to a favourable recommendation and be presented to the Licensing and Planning Committee. The legal agreement has now been signed, and the final permission has been granted.
We also stepped in to help with an outline application for Land West of Ashford Road, that wasn’t progressing due to resourcing pressures. In just six weeks, despite being a contentious issue with local residents and council members, we were able to ensure that all of the development plan policies for the allocated site were met, and the application is now ready to take to recommendation.
In fact, since the beginning of our contract, all of our recommendations on major schemes have so far been supported and approved by Folkestone and Hythe District Council and the Planning and Licencing Committee.