PLANNING officers in Wiltshire are struggling with a 20 per cent rise in applications.

The number of planning applications submitted to Wiltshire Council between January and March, this year, is 20 per cent higher than in pre-pandemic 2019.

This rise could be due to the stamp duty holiday imposed by the government in July 2020.

Cllr Martin Smith, said that there has been, in some cases, a delay of up to three months in processing planning applications.

One of the risks highlighted is that large-scale developments are likely to be decided at appeal rather than by officers or the council’s planning boards.

This issue has now led to Bloor Homes putting in for an appeal on the grounds that officers took too long to decide on the application.

Cllr Smith said the developer has “taken advantage of the chaos” and expects there to be more cases like this if the problem is not addressed.

In his question to the cabinet, the councillor asserted that some reports suggest that the planning department is down 40 per cent on resources.

Which, he said, has led to officers having caseloads that are three or four times that which is deemed reasonable.

The local authority added that the delays in processing planning applications was down to teething issues from a new software system and the diversion of staff to deal with Covid grants.

In a written response to Cllr Martin Smith, the council said: “ Staff resources have also been stretched by a number of senior and junior officers leaving the council, and others taking maternity leave.

“There is a national shortage of available and suitably qualified planning officers which has meant we have not been able to replace staff.

“The shortage of housing land supply across the county has also led to a surge in major speculative applications, increasing the workload of senior officers, and where these applications have been refused, the resulting appeal workload has significantly increased.”

The council said that it is working to deal with the planning issues laid out.