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New Northamptonshire unitary authorities

by on March 30, 2021

Local government in Northamptonshire is facing its biggest change in over 40 years.

The eight existing councils will be replaced with two brand new unitary councils on 1 April 2021.

The new West Northamptonshire unitary council will serve the areas of Daventry District, Northampton and South Northants, and the new North Northamptonshire unitary authority will serve Wellingborough, Kettering, Corby and East Northants.

These two new councils will start providing services to the residents and businesses of Northamptonshire from Thursday 1 April. The aim is that this new unitary system will provide more efficient service delivery for residents and businesses and increase value for money.

In terms of making planning and building control applications via the Planning Portal, you may notice a slight rebranding of the application forms but we can confirm that applications will continue to be submitted to the correct authorities.

  1. Barry Woodcock permalink

    Isn’t it really time that the whole country was reorganised on this Unitary Authority basis which seems to have been so successful elsewhere.

  2. Unitary council welcomed for Northamptonshire. Efficient management, less bureaucracy, value for money and potentially a slimmed down Council (no twin hatters).

    Planning applications decided on facts without any bias. With efficient and effective process based on government guidance

    • Roger Newall permalink

      Not sure what you mean by efficient management and value for money. As a former LA planning officer the problem for me is lack staff numbers and lack of training for new planners.
      In my experience all planning applications are determined on their own merits in line with policy, and in my 30 plus years experience I only recall one episode of bias.
      If people wish to see a planning department working efficiently then it will need to be properly funded and not face ‘efficiency savings’, which are a ruse for making cuts.

      • Roger. In many areas the NIMBY groups have taken over the process, and Councillors become concerned that this minority group could threaten them during local elections. A unitary council would allow a planning application to be determined by councillors not in the ward / area where the development is being considered.
        In some LPA’s local councillors have been known to use their influence even when the application is covered by delegated authority.
        I assume you are in favour of the unitary council structure.
        I do agree that planners should be well trained and up to date on both national and local legislative / guidance but that applies in all walks of business. Financing needs to be addressed – I have noticed that adverts for planning officers are not demonstrating encouraging salaries and perhaps you and your colleagues should suggest that some study should be conducted at a national level to set job descriptions and appropriate salaries. That might include taking into account both qualifications and onsite work experience

      • With the various government initiatives in White Papers and the promise of a comprehensive review of the planning process the time is right for whoever can represent local authority planners to get their act together and make representations that their jobs be given a complete analysis. That means in job description, qualifications (and I don’t mean having letters behind their names but also onsite experience gained over many years).
        The government wants the industry to build better, be innovative, better designed buildings and that means that local government planning officers must be up to date with all the dimensions of that better building approach. They could also make positive suggestions in the process. Remember the governments plan to build 300,000 houses every year for the foreseeable future. There are suggestions that more council houses should be built and these should follow the same build better guidelines.
        I get the impression that some LPA officers (perhaps because of the culture of the Council as a whole) approach planning decisions in a negative way as against the presumption to do all they can, as a part of the team looking to build (land owner, developer, builder especially small builders and self builders) to make it all happen. This all creates jobs in the area and retail trade benefits as the funds spin around.
        A higher paid local authority planning officer, based on a professional analysis together with all the up to date training given to them would result in a higher standard of cooperation within that team. Councillors would have final oversight of the whole process.

  3. Roger Newall permalink

    I think you miss my point. Part of govt cutbacks to local authorities, and this is both Labour and Conservative, has seen training budgets disappear; as with many professions there is a shortage of qualified staff due to lack of training, hence many councils are unable to fill posts, hence endless delays in applications being determined within the set timeframes.
    Whilst I have no argument with unitary authorities, they are seen as yet another way to ‘save money’ and the experience here in Buckinghamshire has not solved any planning related issues as there are still the staff shortages that existed prior to unification.
    The only way to resolve this is through increased funding, particularly to training budgets, and not keep looking for efficiency savings that are meaningless.
    Planning officers do not approach decisions in a negative way as policy dictates the outcome of applications. If applicants are unhappy they can appeal, and if you look at the outcome of these the majority are dismissed.
    If you wish to be critical of planning read the white paper published last year – that will give you plenty of scope to be critical of the proposed planning system, and is govt led but will have to be implemented by local authorities!

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