Question and Response:
Q.1 Please could you let me have the amount of the costs awarded against the Council on Planning Appeals allowed since June, 2017 to December, 2018
A.1 We do not hold a comprehensive list of costs awarded against the Council on Planning Appeals allowed. We have however been able to run a transaction report of payments made for the period June 2017 - September 2018. Due to the introduction of a new finance system in September 2018 the report cannot be run for the period September - December 2018.
The transaction report has shown that the Council paid award of costs for Planning appeals which total £107,553 for the period June 2017-September 2018. Paper records show no payments were made for the period September - December 2018.
Q.2 Please could you let me have the following information for the period March to December, 2018.
Q.2a. The performance figures on all planning decisions during this period.
A.2a The overall performance on all applications decisions (development type codes 01 to 27) is 2166 applications determined within agreed time out of 3347 applications determined. 65%
Q.2b The number of Planning applications that were withdrawn.
Q.2c The number of appeals made against planning decisions
Q.2d The number of appeals dismissed
Q.2e The number of decisions that have gone against pre-application recommendations
A.2e It would take approximately 1,125 - 1,500 hours to get this information together because we would have to look at approximately 4500 applications to manually check to see if a preapp was linked that matched the proposal of the application. We would then need to check the officers response letter to the preapp against the planning applications outcome.
Our database only records that the pre-app was closed when a response has been issued, so we would have to look at each response in our Document management system to see whether or not it matched with the outcome. This would approximately take 15-20mins per application check manually each application.
Refusal under Exemption 12 - Section 1(1) does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit. The public interest test requires Northumberland County Council to confirm that we hold certain information relating to pre application recommendations. However, the time and cost involved in extracting the requested information would exceed our statutory obligation to comply with the request; e.g. 2.5 days and/or £450.
Q.2f The number of complaints received at Stage 1.
Q.2g The number of complaints received at Stage 2
Q.2h. How many complaints have been referred to the Ombudsman
Q.3. How many staff have left in this period.
A.9 16 employees left the Planning service between March and December 2018
Q.4 What are the costs to the Council associated with redundancy agreements.
A.4 There were no redundancies within the Planning Service during the time frame.
Q.5 What are the costs to the Council associated with compromise agreements.
A.5 There was one compromise agreement within the Planning Service at a cost of £41,7019.18
Q.6 How many temporary staff have been employed by the department during this period and what is the cost to the Council.
A.6 Within Planning Services between March 2018 to December 2018 the number of staff on fixed term contracts are shown in the table below. Please note a number of these contracts were employees acting up into other roles to cover vacancies and sickness. The total cost over this period was £584,572.44.
Month Number of temporary staff
March 2018 28
April 2018 29
May 2018 29
June 2018 27
July 2018 24
August 2018 26
September 2018 24
October 2018 24
November 2018 25
December 2018 25
The Freedom of Information Act sets out various exemptions to the right of access. In the present case the County Council takes the view that the information relating to question 5 of your request is exempt under the following provisions.
• Section 12(1) Exemption where cost of compliance exceeds appropriate limit.
Section 1(1) does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit.
(2) Subsection (1) does not exempt the public authority from its obligation to comply with paragraph (a) of section 1(1) unless the estimated cost of complying with that paragraph alone would exceed the appropriate limit.
(3) In subsections (1) and (2) "the appropriate limit" means such amount as may be prescribed, and different amounts may be prescribed in relation to different cases.
(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide that, in such circumstances as may be prescribed, where two or more requests for information are made to a public authority-
(a) by one person, or
(b) by different persons who appear to the public authority to be acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign, the estimated cost of complying with any of the requests is to be taken to be the estimated total cost of complying with all of them.
(5) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for the purposes of this section as to the costs to be estimated and as to the manner in which they are to be estimated.
Notice of Refusal
Please treat this as a Notice of a Part Refusal as regards the information covered by the Section 12(1) Exemption for question 5 only.