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The development control and local land charges services provided by Epping Forest DC...
The development control and local land charges services provided by Epping Forest DC

are fair with undertain prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission. The inspection team gave the services one star.

Dorothy Welsh, commissioning inspector, Central Region, said:

'Our inspection report acknowledges the positive contribution these services make to the overall environment of Epping Forest. To develop a better service, Epping needs to gather and use the views of people who use the service and publish clear standards residents can judge the quality of service they receive.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

* the development control service is securing some quality development in the district and helping to preserve the special character of Epping Forest

* it is also securing contributions from developers to provide wider community benefits such as affordable housing and environmental improvements

* some areas of the services' performance are improving compared with other councils

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

* plans for improving the service rely heavily upon the introduction of a new IT system, but progress on this has been limited and the work is not expected to be done for four to five years

* the lack of service standards or 'charters' for development control and local land charges make it difficult for the public to know what to expect of the services

* customer satisfaction with the services is lower than average

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:

* introduce a new development control service charter by January 2003

* look at other ways the service can be provided to ensure value for money

The review of the development control service covered planning control, enforcement and the appeals service, but excluded planning policy and building control. The service cost approximately£637,000 in 2001/02 and is delivered by 23 council staff. Local land services employs six council staff.

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