PLANNING consultancies have said the council’s customer service and planning department is “untenable”. 

Four big-name consultants who submit a lot of planning applications to BCP Council on behalf of developers have said there is an “intense negativity” towards applications. 

Darryl Howells Planning Consultancy, Evans & Traves LLP, Pure Town Planning and Ken Parke Planning Consultants have all written to council chief executive Graham Farrant calling for “cultural shift”. 

The four firms all said it is “very rare” emails and phone calls are returned, there is “extremely low, if any” negotiation and “no consistency in the planning decision considerations”. 

In a formal letter of complaint to BCP Council, they all cited 20 points which the planning department has, in their eyes, failed. 

Bournemouth Echo: Ken Parke - managing director of Ken Parke Planning ConsultancyKen Parke - managing director of Ken Parke Planning Consultancy (Image: PR)

They said: “This list is by no means exhaustive. We appreciate that we many have professional differences of opinion, however, it all too often feels every application is unacceptable, or unjustified, but your officers’ subjective opinion is more important than economic growth, jobs or new housing. 

“A lack of objectivity in applying the tilted planning balance is too frequently experienced. We ask that you try to see the issues from our perspective.  

“We cannot effectively advise our clients or plan if we do not know what is acceptable because decision-making is so inconsistent.” 

They added officers “are doing everything they can to derail the application”, adding it is “easier [for officers] to say ‘no’ than ‘yes’”. 

In December, BCP’s chief operations officer Jess Gibbons said the volume of planning applications the authority gets coupled with a shortage of qualified planning officers plays some part in the speed at which applications are determined. 

Bournemouth Echo: BCP chief executive Graham FarrantBCP chief executive Graham Farrant (Image: Richard Crease)

Chief executive Mr Farrant told the Echo: “We are continuing to improve our planning service for all our residents, and our relationships with developers and agents are a key priority for the council. 

“We are looking into this specific complaint which will be treated in line with council’s complaints procedure.” 

Wendy Lane, director of planning at BCP Council, wrote a report last month highlighting what progress has been made so far in the department. 

She noted that in November 2021 there was a backlog of 734 applications, but that had been reduced by 50 per cent to 371 in December 2023. 

Ms Lane added: “There has been good progress in stabilising and improving the planning service with a performance management culture being introduced which has weekly coordinating groups meeting to actively address and reduce the backlog of outstanding cases.”