As we enter into a new year with a vaccine gone into distribution, we would like to offer our best wishes to everyone for a better year ahead.
Whilst we look forward with optimism for a glimpse of normality, we would like to highlight the current circumstances of the service amid current lockdown restrictions.
Whilst a spring/summer lockdown of 2020 was challenging, the longer sunny days and warmth made the daily tasks of home working and home schooling seem bearable. Like many of you, we face these same tasks in the winter months, confined to our homes due to a dark, damp and cold climate, the challenges and strains have been intensified.
As a service, whilst continuing to offer the best customer experience that we can, current restrictions requires the continued closure of our offices and maintained remote working. Managers have recognised the extended challenges of this lockdown on all staff within the service from family life, care of vulnerable family and friends, childcare and home-schooling to those living alone, all in need of support. Consequently, the well-being and mental health of our staff within the service will continue to be prioritised. Approximately 40% of our staff have young children and dependants therefore, we expect elements of the service to experience delays as parents fulfil their daily duties however, we continue to do the best we can to minimise the disruption to the service.
Key elements of the service still continue and these include receiving, processing and assessing planning applications; City Plan 2030; planning enforcement; neighbour notifications; Planning helpdesk; DM sub-committee; and, the Local Review Body. Elements of the service that have been suspended include site visits, and site notices will be available online only. A small plea: if you are submitting an application, any contextual information including photos would be very helpful.
As a planning authority, we rely heavily on the input from colleagues within other services, agents/architects, consultants, stakeholders and communities. We recognise these same challenges will be faced by everyone. We offer our sincere understanding and continued willingness to work with you, optimising new forms of communication and alternative working arrangements.
We will continue to deliver the best possible planning service for our city however, given these challenging times and restrictive working environments, we ask for your continued patience and understanding for our staff.