BHCC withdrew your walk-in right to access planning application material in hard copy on 1.1.12. You are expected to view all material online. This decision was taken by officers under delegated powers and all approaches concerning the disadvantaging of those not online were rebuffed. Neither councillors nor officers care if people cannot or will not become computer literate. It is not their problem it would seem. They have officially made it YOUR problem or your neighbour/ friend/relative’s problem. Less than 65% of residents are online. Fact.
Exceptionally – and it is exceptional – you can ask the planning officer assigned to specific live applications for an appointment to view his/her Working Case File. You have to know who that is of course and be able to look online in the area where the application documentation is to find out who that is. UNLESS! Ring City Direct and use up their time asking them on 292424. The Working Case File will contain application documents as well as correspondence. It will contain responses to public consultation from internal sources, statutory consultees outside the council as well as members of the public and councillors if they make a comment or request applications in their wards be taken to committee.
False economy or madness. You judge. The poor counter staff have double the work to do and this has to be stressful for them and completely negligent management practice about which nobody who struggles to use it should keep quiet about. Complain to your councillor.
If you are allowed to look at the case file, it can be for a few minutes only, up to a day or more. No predicting I’m afraid. And they give every impression of considering this a huge concession and privilege which is entirely in their gift. Make the arrangement at least a day in advance and hope the officer is away dealing with an appeal out of town when you want to visit City Direct
If a planning application is major, you will struggle to gain access but if an application is minor it should be relatively simple to access the file.
City Direct has been completely changed. A cold draft by the entrance door replaces the dividing wall. The seats at the bank of computers are unsuitable and too low and I never see anyone sitting at them. The area is now a space shared with the police who have decamped to Hove Town Hall. Hove Police Station was sold to BHCC to become a school. It is extremely noisy and visually loud and distracting.
You will need to allocate double the time you might have in the past because you have to queue for a ticket and to state your business, then you have to queue and wait for the tannoy to call your number to a booth to get what you came for. If you want any printouts from files you have to queue again to ask for printing and give them papers/files then queue again and wait for the tannoy to call your number to go to the booth they tell you and on and on it horribly goes.
Please note it is a difficult and demanding environment that requires considerable physical capacity and stamina. Counter staff are now in the middle of the room and you have to listen to them talk, to the public talk, to a LOT of people talking. A serious design FAIL. And using the booths requires you can move chairs out of the way or around to sit on them. There are two blocking the entrance to each DSS-style ‘interview’ booth. The council claim this is DDA compliant.