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Changes to planning rules to focus more quickly on potential harm to communities

Changes to enforcing planning rules will allow two district councils to focus on cases with the most potential to cause harm to local communities much more quickly.

South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils are in the top 4 per cent of local authorities for planning enforcement performance.

Now a new triage system is to be introduced as part of councils’ updated planning enforcement statement, which will allow them to deal with cases in a timelier manner and make best use of resources.

The system will use a set of criteria to rate the potential impact a planning breach is having or could have on matters that are of greatest concern to both councils and their communities such as damaging a listed building, destroying protected trees, endangering protected species or harming biodiversity.

The updated statement, approved by both South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils’ cabinets on December 2 and 3 respectively, means the councils will be able to more efficiently and effectively deal with cases and make site visits to those that jeopardise the integrity of the districts’ planning policies.

Councillor Bethia Thomas, deputy leader of Vale of White Horse District Council and Cabinet Member for Community Engagement, said: “Planning enforcement is more than just rules and regulations on paper – without it, we could see damage to the character of our unique buildings and green spaces. A clear and robust planning enforcement statement is vital in protecting our communities.”

Councillor Anne-Marie Simpson, South Oxfordshire Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “The changes we’ve approved will ensure our enforcement team can prioritise investigating those cases that cause the greatest harm to our communities. These investigations are on behalf of the council and not individuals, resulting in a fairer system for all.”

The new planning enforcement statement also provides greater transparency and clarity about the process, including how to make a report to the council and an easy-to-understand flow chart explaining the different stages of an investigation.

You can read the new updated planning enforcement statement.