Planning Authority of the Year - Winner
Bath and North-East Somerset Council Planning
B&NES Planning are a high performing team, driven by their ethos of ‘improving people's live’and their ambition to be the best planning service in the country. The team has set aspiring planning policy, make high quality, timely decisions on applications, and undertake proactive enforcement action. The Team pride themselves on their reputation for direct engagement and excellent customer service. They have embraced innovation, and actively encourage ideas for change and improvement within the department. The team have great internal relationships championing each other to achieve professional and personal development while providing everyday pastoral support to each other.
In selecting BANES as the winner, the judges were impressed with their submission which evidenced a highly efficient, effective, engaging, inclusive, professional and exceptionally well-run Planning Team at a time when the financial pressures on Local Government are acute.
The “Casebusting” approach stood out as a way to overcome difficult projects, with regular Agent Forums to build a dialogue with those using the service.
The external customer focus of the Council is demonstrated in a high-performance Team with a positive mind set on policy delivery and a clear drive towards sustainable development. The team adapted well during Covid with new policy and management responses.
In relation to EDI, the Judges considered the entry presented a very thorough, multi-faceted, and professional response, with examples given as to joint working with Health agency, civic and minority groups.
The Team demonstrated a strong commitment to staff development. The balanced response provided excellent references to Mentoring and Apprenticeships. The use of Apprentice rotation through the Department was considered a very good example of embedding best practice.
In short, the Judging Panel considered that there was much to be applauded in the way the Team is run and the cumulative impact of different approaches together with a positive mindset was considered exemplar in the region.
Planning Authority of the Year - Commended
Torridge District Council Planning
Torridge District Council is a rural Planning Authority on the Northern Coast of Devon. Due to the nature of the area, the team had suffered with significant staff shortages - now a national issue - which resulted in poor customer relations. However, investment in training, a willingness to support new staff, and a focus on making the Council an excellent place to work, has enabled the team to grow into a well-resourced department, with a focus on encouraging appropriate development, pragmatic decision making, and the willingness to negotiate with agents and reach out to customers to achieve positive decisions and outcomes.
"In commending this authority, the judges were impressed with the approaches this very much rural authority took to recruiting and developing its team. Recruitment away from high growth areas continues to prove difficult, and the Council turned to the positive attributes of their locality to attract staff, supported by a “personal touch” and a focus on team-building and collective spirit. This included reference to a Social Committee to underpin the recruitment and retention drive. These initiatives were considered by the Judges to be very heartening.
Good examples were presented as to the importance the planning team places on the social dimension of the working environment and a service focused on farming initiatives that respond to local needs, supported by regular engagement with service users.
Collaboration was also a strength of Torridge, where expertise and experiences are shared between neighbouring authorities - again a great example of a rural authority not limiting is resources.
The team clearly has a positive mindset and is addressing local rural challenges, while nurturing talent is to be applauded. The way in which the Council planning team has responded to rural and recruitment pressures was well-considered and justified a Commendation in this Category".