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Customer Service Standards

Planning

Our customer service standards set out in detail the level of service you can expect from the Planning Services Department at Swale Borough Council.

The Planning Service exists for the benefit of the whole community and seeks to achieve the right balance between:

  • Enhancing and protecting the natural and built environment;
  • Supporting new development and regeneration;
  • Encouraging sustainable development that will provide for the economic and social well being of the community;
  • Providing a public protection role.

We are responsible for the following:

  • Deciding planning and related applications (Development Management);
  • Formulating local planning policies within government legislation and guidelines;
  • Planning compliance and enforcement;
  • Conservation areas and listed buildings;
  • Trees and ecology;
  • Land Charges.

We are committed to providing the best possible services for everyone who lives or works in the borough of Swale. We operate to a set of customer service principles which outline our aims.

Acting professionally we will

  • Be helpful, polite and courteous and treat you with respect and fairness;
  • Act with integrity and honesty;
  • Ensure our staff are properly trained and proactive;
  • Listen carefully in order to understand and respond to your needs;
  • Give you an explanation of our actions;
  • Do everything we can to resolve your query to your satisfaction.

In addition:

  • If we are unable to resolve your enquiry, we will forward it to the appropriate person;
  • Where appropriate, we will keep a progress record on your enquiry and any advice we gave showing what has been done and when.

In return please:

  • Treat our staff with respect;
  • Act with integrity and honesty and provide us with accurate information and plans;
  • Tell us when your circumstances change;
  • Tell us what you think of our service.

To enable effective two way communication we will

  • Agree the nature of your enquiry with you and discuss when you can expect us to resolve it (if it is possible in the short term);
  • Keep you informed on the progress of your enquiry, what is happening with it and what will happen;
  • Aim to use plain English in our reply and a format or language which suits your needs.

When we arrange to visit you we will

  • Explain who we are and show you an authorised identification badge;
  • Aim to visit you at a convenient date and time;
  • Explain the purpose of our visit.

When you visit us we will

  • Ensure that you can access our offices;
  • Ensure our reception areas will be clean and accommodating and provide general up to date information about council services;
  • Ensure our reception staff see you promptly;
  • Ensure that you see someone appropriate to deal with your enquiry or arrange an appointment for you, if necessary;
  • Make every effort to resolve your enquiry there and then or advise you how to proceed with your enquiry;
  • Ensure the person dealing with your enquiry gives their name;
  • Ensure efforts are made to agree alternative arrangements if you are unable to visit the council offices or require a meeting in private.

When you telephone us, during office hours we will

  • Answer your call promptly - within 20 seconds where possible;
  • Provide our name to allow you to follow up with another call, if necessary;
  • Aim to answer your enquiry there and then. If we cannot do this we will direct you to someone who can deal with your enquiry or advise you how to proceed;
  • If we take a message or you leave a voicemail message we will call you back by 4pm the next working day.

When you write or email us about general matters we will

  • Aim to acknowledge your email within three working days of receipt;
  • Aim to reply to your correspondence within ten working days of receipt or, if we cannot answer your queries in full by this time, within three days send a holding letter to you indicating to you when a full response will be possible;
  • Ensure our reply identifies the person or team who is dealing with your enquiry so that you know who to contact should you need to;
  • Respond to requests under the Freedom of Information Act in twenty working days.

More specifically, with regard to

Development Management we will

  • If requested, send forms in the post to you by the next working day;
  • Help you to complete forms;
  • Acknowledge your planning application within five working days;
  • Put your planning application on the statutory planning register so that it can be inspected by any interested member of the public;
  • Allow 21 days for third parties (including parish and town councils) to comment on applications, and a further 14 days for comments on any changes to an application;
  • Let your neighbours know about your application;
  • In some cases we will put up a notice on or near the site and advertise the application in a local newspaper;
  • Consult other organisations such as the Highway Authority, Environment Agency, English Nature;
  • Hold, and allow you to see, a copy of any reports sent to the Planning Committee and background papers used to prepare the report. These will be available five working days prior to the meeting;
  • Inform everyone who has written to us with their comments on an application of the decision and to place the decision notices on our website;
  • Deal with any appeals relating to planning applications, refused permission, conditions imposed by the Council or against enforcement notices served.

Notification - How long will council decisions take, we will

  • Aim to decide the majority of applications within eight weeks, unless they are major category development proposals;
  • Issue a decision notice within two working days of a formal decision;
  • Give reasons for our decisions if planning permission is refused or approved with conditions imposed;
  • Where necessary, advise you of your rights of appeal to the Secretary of State.

Enforcement Action we will

  • Record alleged breaches of planning control and investigate them in line with our enforcement and compliance policies;
  • If we decide not to take action we will explain to the person complaining the reason why;
  • Act accordingly and with strict confidentiality in our dealings with you and the information you provide;
  • Visit the site if necessary within 10 days of receipt of the complaint;
  • Write to the offender (where a breach of planning regulations is identified) and state clearly what breach has occurred, the options/timescale available to resolve it and what will happen if matters are not put right.

Spatial Planning we will

  • Hold and let you see copies of all Planning documents and guidance at our Sittingbourne offices;
  • Give you the opportunity to have your say as we prepare plans, either in person, in writing or on our website;
  • Publish dates of all consultation periods in local newspapers and publications;
  • Prepare the Development Plan and deal with external consultations within the necessary timescales;

Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas we will

  • Offer guidance on listed building regulations and conservation area restrictions;
  • Aim to give you a decision on your listed building consent application within eight weeks.

Land Charges we will

  • Respond quickly to your search requests;
  • Aim to complete your application for local land charge searches efficiently and accurately within ten working days.

Compliments, comments and complaints

  • If you have an idea about how we can improve things, we’d like to hear from you;
  • If you’re happy with the service you have received, please let us know and we’ll pass on your compliments to our staff;
  • If you have a complaint, we will ask you to put it in writing. We will then investigate and take action to put things right if necessary;
  • We will reply to your complaint correspondence within ten working days of receipt or, if we cannot answer your complaint in full by this time, we will send a holding letter to you indicating when a full response will be possible within 3 working days of receipt;
  • We will advise you of the further options available to you if you are not happy with our response.

To find out more, contact us.

Our office hours (excluding Bank Holidays) at Swale House are:

  • Mon - Thu: 8:45am - 5pm
  • Fri: 8:45am - 4:30pm

See our How to comment, complain and feedback webpage.

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