The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has said it will recruit an additional 40 town-planning experts to adjudicate in disputes over new development following a year when performance was “unacceptable” for many customers.
An executive agency answerable to both the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Welsh Government, PINS said in its annual report that it was seeking to more than double the 18 inspectors added to its ranks at the end of last year in 2018-19.
It said that a 13% rise in casework that related to appeals over new phone kiosks and “challenges in recruiting sufficient inspector resource” had led to a service that fell short of expectations for “many”.
The report outlined failure to meet performance and customer-service expectations among its key risks for 2018-19, and listed improved workforce planning and implementing a plan to improve appeals, hearings and inquiries among its strategies to head off the risk.
Chief executive Sarah Richards said in the report that it was acknowledged across the organisation that the new inspectors recruited in December “wouldn’t be enough to meet our projected needs”, so the drive to recruit 40 more inspectors had been launched.
“These new inspectors will allow us the flexibility to meet demand across the country, and give us capacity to respond to new challenges,” she said.
“I have no doubt that the coming year will be a challenging one for us, but once we become more agile, we should be able to cope with both the expected and unexpected demands that come our way.
“I have high expectations that our staff will embrace the opportunities this presents, and through this period continue to strive towards our vision.”
The report said that in 2017-18 the inspectorate employed an average of 597 “whole-time-equivalent” staff. Details of its actual headcount showed a total of 606 staff for the year, down from the previous year’s 636.
Included in the figures were 255 salaried inspectors, six fewer than the year before. PINS said it had also used the services of 53 non-salaried inspectors on a fee-paid contractual basis in 2017-18, down from 63 the previous year.