To receive any questions from members of the public which have been submitted in advance of the meeting in accordance with the cabinet procedure rules. The deadline for the receipt of public questions is midnight Wednesday 31 January 2018.
Public Question from Amir Eden
Marion Marples asked the public question on behalf of Amir Eden.
Would Southwark Council reform its planning process and procedures to make it genuinely accessible to all, enabling all to influence major changes and taking into account Bankside Residents’ Forum’s recommendations.
Response by the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and New Homes
Thank you for your question, this provides a comprehensive set of questions concerning issues that we are addressing through the planning division digital strategy. We are taking forward projects to address access to planning information by all of the different customers of the service. This includes how we reach those who may find access to digital challenging. Southwark planning began a review of the Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) that began in 2016. The SCI sets out how we will involve the public in the planning service. It became clear that rather than updating the SCI a complete review of customer experience was required. The aim is to create a user friendly, accessible, informative and where possible self service that includes as many people as possible in planning and ensures that there is access by all members of the community including hard to reach groups.
The focus of the project is to implement Southwark’s digital strategy to introduce digital by default and to ensure that there is always an excellent customer service. Projects under way include moving all communications to MySouthwark. The email and mail has been moved to MySouthwark. This has also enabled anyone who is interested in planning applications or policy to access all consultations for the borough or in chosen areas. This has made planning more efficient by reducing the need to update databases and it has improved the customer experience as the customer can track their conversations with the council. The number of people signed up for planning information has increased from 2000 to 7000 since we moved to MySouthwark over the past year. The new website has been rewritten with clear, simple Information and we removed 500 outdated files. Comments pages have been added to the website and we consider suggestions for improvements weekly. These are either immediately actioned or are being compiled to inform our improvements. We have introduced SMART2 on the website with new maps and search tools to improve access to the council’s data store to provide background information. The council’s get online service has been introduced at libraries to help anyone who needs assistance with how to use the website. There is a copy of each planning document for consultation at each library with a poster advert. We have continued to make our policy documents clear and concise so that they can be easily understood by everybody. We produce leaflets that we distribute online. We prepare consultation reports on all planning documents and for planning decisions that are presented to decision makers with clear information about who has been consulted and how comments have been taken into account.
We are working on many innovative projects to make the service more accessible using digital technology and they will be introduced during the next year.
Marion Marples requested that the council should:
· Avoid consultations around holiday periods
· Ensure that developers are required to provide a jargon free summary planning leaflets that are sent to residents within 100 metres of development
· Encourage the use of consultation workshops to allow local residents and groups to engage in the planning process
· Encourage councillors to undertake site visits, especially if on the planning committee.
Councillor Mark Williams explained that the council were required legally to deal with planning applications within a specific timeframe, but would always try to add in extra days when consultation took place around holiday periods. The council was continuing to try and ensure that as much information as possible was available online.