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The development control service provided by Torridge DC is good and has promising prospects for improvement, accord...
The development control service provided by Torridge DC is good and has promising prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

An inspection team gave the service two stars.

The development control service is mainly 'statutory' and includes planning applications, handling appeals, enforcement and tree preservation orders. The overall budget for the service was£248,180 in 2000/2001.

Peter Wylie, regional director, Southern Region Best Value Inspection Service, said:

'The development control service at Torridge DC is performing well and this is reflected by local people being satisfied. The future looks bright for the service. We have highlighted some small issues that need to be addressed so that further improvements can be achieved. These include tightening up administrative support and producing an improvement plan that is more focused on the customers. If our recommendations are adopted in full, we see no reason why the development control service should not go from strength to strength.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

- Many activities are being provided well, with good levels of satisfaction among users and partners

- Aims of the service are clearly linked to one of the council's corporate objectives

- The performance of the development control service is good compared to similar councils, and is just below the levels achieved by the top 25 per cent of councils nationally

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

- The council's improvement plan is not sufficiently focussed on the benefits for the service's customers

- Aims of the service could be better linked to the views of the community, external agencies and the aims of other council services

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

- By February 2002, produce an improvement plan that is more focused on customers needs.

- Secure a more effectively managed service through various measures including ensuring the new computer system includes facilities for dealing with tree preservation order records

- Ensure greater effectiveness of decision making by, for example, providing clear and explicit reasons for decisions on occasions when the planning committee reverses planning officer recommendations

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