CEREDIGION councillors go against planning officer advice more often than at any other local authority according to a Welsh Government report.

In its fifth all-Wales annual performance report, based on figures submitted by councils, target indicators in a number of areas were analysed.

Factors include the length of time to determine major applications, listed building consent, enforcement action and the amount of applications dealt with by delegated authority or committee.

Ceredigion County Council was the only local authority in the red “improve” category after more than half of its applications – 55 per cent – were made contrary to officer advice.

Thirty-three of the 59 applications considered by committee were not consistent with planning policy advice and its performance “significantly skews the all Wales average.”

“Ceredigion County Council consistently determines a very high proportion of applications contrary to officer advice. There are

either tensions in the relationship between members and officers, or members are displaying insufficient regard for the plan-led system, or both.

"This is counter-productive and creates uncertainty within the planning system, which communities and developers rely upon to create confidence in the shape and location of future development and leads to low levels of public confidence in the planning service locally,” states the report.

The council determined 65 per cent of major applications on time in 2018-19, in the green “good” category but dropping to 33.7 per cent over the six year period of reporting.

Eight were dealt with within the eight to 16-week time period, seven within an agreed extension and eight were late.

It took around 125.8 days to deal with the applications, below the Welsh average of 231.8.

Seventy two per cent of standard applications were dealt with within the specified time frame, – on average 95 days – which is above the Welsh average of 80 days but still within the amber “fair” range but again dropping into the red when looking at the last six years.

Last year Powys took the longest to determine applications at 161 days on average an Merthyr Tydfil was the fastest in 49 days.

A spokesman for Ceredigion County Council said: “The authority recognises that in comparison to other LPA’s, a significant proportion of Development Control Committee decisions are made against officer recommendation. However, of the total number of applications that were determined by the council in its capacity as the Local Planning Authority (LPA), only a small percentage were determined contrary to officer advice.

“In situations where members of the Development Control Committee resolve to approve an application contrary to officer advice, they are asked to provide reasons (that is, justification on planning grounds) to support their decision. The reasons provided are recorded in the minutes of the meeting.

“In addition to topic specific workshops for elected member, briefing sessions are held immediately prior to Development Control Committee convening during which issues of importance are highlighted and discussed.

"Sessions have focused on interpretation of, adherence to, and implementation of the Local Development Plan policies and national planning policy. Other topics covered include service performance issues, actions aimed at delivering service improvements, procedural and process matters.”

An improvement in performance and the number of applications being dealt with within time limits is expected this year.