Exeter City Council has adopted a Progressive Group proposal to employ a planning enforcement officer after the ruling Labour group twice publicly rejected the idea.
The Progressive Group of Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent councillors put forward a proposal to employ a dedicated council officer to investigate and remedy planning breaches in February 2020 and again in February this year during annual budget decision-making.
Councillors Kevin Mitchell and Diana Moore, group co-leaders, initially suggested that the post should be funded from underspending in other areas.
The group then proposed the creation of a charging scheme for the free pre-application advice service the council provides to developers in order to cover the costs of employing the officer.
The council is among the few local planning authorities which give free advice to support large development applications, and has also been employing expensive temporary agency staff to clear a backlog of around 160 planning enforcement cases.
Despite Labour’s public rejection of the proposals it has since emerged that the council has created the new role.
A newly-published register has also revealed that Exeter City Council has issued as many planning enforcement notices in the past three months as it has in the past three years.
These have included addressing non-compliance with planning conditions at the Glenthorne Road student accommodation development site and the unlawful conversion of a garage into a residential studio flat on Northernhay Street.
At this year’s budget meeting the ruling Labour group also rejected Progressive Group proposals to improve council decision-making scrutiny and Conservative group proposals to address student council tax exemption, city-wide food waste recycling and Wonford Community Centre refurbishment.
The council continues not to charge developers for pre-application advice.