Diary of a Planning Peer Reviewer

Dear diary, planning peer reviews rock!*  This is my first day on a planning peer review. Peer reviews are run on a variety of themes that look closely at how a particular service performs and integrates with the rest of the council (generally speaking). We’re doing a review of a planning service in the south east. The head of the planning service here has worked very hard in preparation for our visit. And I think there are high expectations for what we’ll deliver.

The review team is slightly unbalanced from my perspective (it’s me and four very experienced men around my dad’s age) but they’re doing an excellent job at teasing out the issues. We split into pairs to interview officers and members and meet up occasionally in the base room to share notes. The process of linking the messages together is simple. We put key notes from the interviews on post-it notes and group these on flipchart sheets labelled with the six headings of the spatial planning benchmarks.

It’s kind of like playing detective because not everybody is as forthcoming as one might hope. But you can see the telltale signs when people aren’t saying everything they’re thinking. You have to ask the right kind of probing questions to get the real story out. Conversely, some interviewees are very forthcoming and the stuff they come out with can be quite shocking.

Day 1 pros: I’m learning a lot about the different kinds of challenges facing planning services. It has been really encouraging to see enthusiasm in this service for PAS support that they plan to take up. I’m very confident some of our support will get to the heart of some of the big issues we’ve heard about today. And finally, I’m enjoying a post-work lager in front of a wood fire at the hotel (big pro).

Day 1 cons: The day had a rocky start because the peer review room wasn’t properly set up. And the refreshments for the team left a lot to be desired. But nevermind – it’s been a very good day regardless.  Next installment tomorrow (I bet you can’t wait)…

*ok, so I’m slightly prone to hyperbole

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