Wakefield residents 'frustrated' by delays to legal action against developers

Enforcement notices are served against housebuilders when they break certain conditions.
Enforcement notices are served against housebuilders when they break certain conditions.

Residents in the Wakefield district are becoming increasingly frustrated with a lack of visible action against developers who break rules, a senior councillor has warned.

Pontefract South representative David Jones said that he was getting "constant complaints" from people waiting for the local authority to take action over planning issues.

Pontefract councillor David Jones said the residents needed to be made more aware that the service was struggling financially.

Pontefract councillor David Jones said the residents needed to be made more aware that the service was struggling financially.

The local authority is set to make a further £150,000 worth of cutbacks to its enforcement department, according to its budget proposals for the coming financial year.

Planning enforcement officers are there to serve legal notices against people and organisations who are breaching rules around land and territory.

Examples include groups of travellers who move onto public sites without permission and housebuilders who breach conditions they must adhere to when developing homes.

But Coun Jones said the public needed to be made more aware of how stretched the service is, and added that staff were doing their best in difficult circumstances.

Speaking at a meeting of scrutiny chairs on Monday, he said: "I think there’s a frustration among residents where there are planning issues and people haven’t done what they’re supposed to do.

"The enforcement team then gets involved but it’s a slow process.

"So residents get frustrated, and God help us, they get angry with us (elected members) in the first instance.

"I know enforcement do a fantastic job and they’re very stretched. Staff are really up against it. But I think it’s one of those areas where residents do feel something is wrong.

"I think it’s important we make people aware of the implications of where we are financially at the moment, because enforcement is a shop window service."

In response, the council's chief executive Merran McRae said the organisation was looking at ways it could work "differently" to respond to complaints better.

She said: "I think one of the problems is for us to take sanctions and take a case to court, the breach has to be serious, otherwise you have this ping-ponging of conversations between us and them.

"I think a lot of it is about trying to get developers to sign up to their responsibilities.

"But also we have to look and see if there's anything we can do differently within enforcement.