The planning department at Worcester City Council has “let the people of the city down”.

That’s the stinging view of Councillor Marc Bayliss, the leader of the council itself, who is not at all happy at what looks like a dramatic drop in the department’s performance.

Cllr Bayliss, who is leader of the Conservative group at the Guildhall was speaking at the meeting of the authority's Place and Economic Development Committee which was looking at a performance report for the council.

It showed that in 2017/18 only 44 per cent of major planning applications were dealt with within a target 13 weeks, when the council hoped for 90 per cent. The previous year 100 per cent of such applications were settled within desired time.

There was a similar drop off in dealing with minor applications within eight weeks. In 2016/17 87 per cent of such applications were dealt with within two months. In the last year, that figure was down to 52.5 per cent, when the target was 90 per cent.

Cllr Bayliss said: “This is not good enough. Not good enough at all. This council is letting down the people it is meant to serve.

“This is not anything like the good performance we used to see in the post. Planning is one of the statutory duties of this council and the people of Worcester need us to do it properly and this has been a terrible year.”

The council’s director of Place, Andrew Round explained that the planning department had struggled to fill two full-time gaps in its staffing for some time, although two temporary staff were in post.

Chairman of the planning Committee Councillor Chris Mitchell suggested the council take on young people as planning officer apprentices to try and fill the gaps.

Councillor Pat Agar agreed saying a ‘grow our own’ strategy could help handle a national shortage of planning officers.