Planning minister Robert Jones said: 'The advisory panel's third report provides further confirmation of the effectiveness of the inspectorate's systems and procedures. This has enabled the agency to maintain a consistently high standard of performance across the broad range of its activities, for which Chris Shepley and his staff can take much credit.
'The inspectorate's quality initiatives this year, such as the development of improved decision monitoring, and the involvement of the panel itself in analysing performance against the quality target, can only enhance these achievements.
'I recognise, however, that the report is not all good news.
'The panel has also referred to the importance of consistency in the quality of reasoning in decisions. These are matters which, as the panel recognises, the inspectorate are already taking steps to address, including the appointment of more inspectors. I note that the panel intends to study these issues further and I await the results of its investigations with interest.'
Mr Jones also announced the appointment of two new members of the panel, following the retirement of former members, Jeremy Bayliss and Robin Thompson. Richard Lay (chairman, DTZ Debenham Thorpe) and Charles Watson (director of environment, Hertfordshire CC) have been appointed until 1 August 1998.
Mr Jones said: 'The panel has already produced three excellent reports to which Jeremy Bayliss and Robin Thompson have contributed much. I wish to thank them for their valued work for the Panel; they have given their time and expertise unstintingly and voluntarily.
'I am very pleased to announce that Mr Lay and Mr Watson have agreed to take their places. I am sure that the skills and experience they will bring to the task will be major assets to the panel in the coming period.'
'Charlie' Watson has been director of environment, Hertfordshire CC since 1995. He has wide experience in local authority planning. Prior to his current post he was county planning officer for Gloucestershire for seven years. He has also served with Lancashire CC, Redditch New Town Development Corporation, and Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey CCs as a deputy team leader in the sub-regional planning team. He is the immediate past president of the County Planning Officers' Society.
-- Copies of the panel's third report, which is unpriced, are available from the Department of the Environment, Publications Despatch Centre, Blackhorse Road, London SE99 6TT, or by telephoning: 0181 691 9191, or by faxing: 0181 694 0099.