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Planning maintains improved customer satisfaction levels

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Headline figures from the Planning Customer Satisfaction Survey 2010/11, published today, show that the overall level of customer satisfaction with their services stands at 61%.

This is similar to the previous year’s result of 63% but is still a large improvement on the levels recorded in the 2006 and 2008 surveys (42%and 32% respectively).

In total, over 1,000 customers from across Northern Ireland responded to the survey, providing feedback on a range of service provision areas. These included information obtained from Planning, the quality of advice received from Planning, customer experience of dealing with various aspects of service provision, as well as overall level of satisfaction.

The headline figures from the 2010/11 survey are:


Overall satisfaction

In total, 61% of respondents were ‘satisfied / very satisfied’, with the overall service they received by Planning during 2010/11. This is similar to the findings of the customer satisfaction survey covering 2009/10 (63% satisfied overall). However, there are significant differences between the views of agents and the views of personal applicants. Of those agents who responded, 47% were ‘satisfied/very satisfied’ compared with 75% of applicants who were ‘satisfied/very satisfied.

Number of applications for planning permission submitted
Over two fifths (45%) of respondents submitted one application only in 2010/11. Of this, 89% were applicants and 11% were agents. Under a half (46%) of agents submitted between 2 and 10 planning applications in 2010/11 while over one third (35%) submitted between 11 and 50 applications. A further 8% submitted between 51 and 100 and the remainder (2%) submitted over 100.
Information obtained from Planning
Around seven in ten (69%) respondents reported that they had obtained information from the Planning website, published guidance/information leaflets, and/or divisional offices/staff, etc before submitting an application. Of these, the vast majority (93%) rated the information received as satisfactory or better.
Length of time to receive a decision
Over one third of respondents (34%) received a decision on their most recent planning application in 2010/11 within 4 months of submitting it. Fifteen percent of respondents said that they had to wait over 12 months to receive a decision on their most recent planning application in that year.
Type of planning application

Again considering the most recent application made by customers in 2010/11:

The vast majority were for residential development (79%). Of these, 49% were to build a single house, 42% were for some form of domestic extension, and 9% were for more than one house. Applicants were more likely to manage a planning application for an extension than an agent (64% and 36% respectively). Just over half (53%) of applications for a single house were dealt with by an agent. Only 9% of applications were for more than one house. Of these, the majority (72%) were handled by an agent.
Experience of dealing with various aspects of service provision
In terms of the speed of dealing with telephone enquiries, 64% of respondents thought it was satisfactory or better and 65% were at least satisfied with the ability of planning staff to deal with their enquiry. The response time with regard to written correspondence was judged as poor by two fifths (40%) of respondents with less than a quarter (24%) rating it as good. When asked to consider the professionalism of staff, over four in five (82%) respondents thought it was satisfactory or better.
Advice received from Planning
The quality of advice received from Planning was rated as satisfactory or better by approaching three quarters (73%) of respondents, with slightly lower proportions considering its clarity (70%) and comprehensiveness (68%) to be satisfactory or better. The length of time to get advice was felt to be poor by around four in ten (42%) respondents.
Service improvement between 2009/10 and 2010/11
Over two thirds (68%) of respondents had used Planning in the year prior to 2010/11. Of these, a little over half (52%) felt the service was the same, one third (33%) felt it was worse while 15% felt it was better.
Planning Website
Around three quarters (74%) of respondents had visited the Planning website with the vast majority of these (87%) rating it as satisfactory or better.
Complaints about service provided by Planning
Just over a quarter (27%) of respondents said that they had complained about an aspect of the service provided by Planning. Of those who had complained about Planning, around four in five (79%) were not satisfied with the way the complaint was handled.

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