Agenda item

Questions from the Public

To receive questions from the public under Rules 4a.2(f) and 4a.8-18



(i)         Mrs Sue Kornycky asked the following question:


In our representative democracy, the geographical ward or constituency is the critical association between the electorate and their elected representative. This is particularly so at district council level. The local ward member represents his or her local ward. Residents are promised that and expect it.  It is much valued.


Planning decisions do, of course, need to be made on valid planning grounds. But, as they determine the usage of land, a good local knowledge of the area involved should surely enhance and enrich those decisions. A brief site visit seems a very poor substitute for such local knowledge and affinity. Communities expect that cases heard by planning committee will have strong local representation; not to raise ‘nimby’ concerns, but to ensure that the local impact is correctly assessed and properly represented.


The current planning committees have that strong local link inherently inbuilt. I have personally witnessed members of planning committees discharging that duty, admirably, whilst still retaining the necessary ‘open mind’.


In that context, please explain how a single planning committee of 18 members (out of 48) would be established and, in particular, if the current geographical/Ward representation would be completely forsaken in favour of a politically balanced one?


Councillor Michael Willett, the Chairman of the Governance Committee replied as follows:


None of the recommendations restrict the ability of councillors to call in applications or represent the views of their constituents at planning committees as all members whether sitting on the committee or not will have the ability to speak and make representation on behalf of their ward.  In fact it is argued that members not sitting on the Planning Committee have more freedom to speak and impart their local knowledge to Committee members therefore geographical and ward representation would continue.


As a supplementary question, Mrs Kornycky asked, if recommendations (i) and (ii) of the Governance Committee were approved by Council, would Members’ planning training records be published on the Council’s website.


Councillor Willett noted the question and advised that, if not covered by the discussion on this item later on the agenda, a response would be provided.


(ii)        Mr Paul Kornycky asked the following question:


In order to reduce the number of planning applications going to committee, Paragraph 31 of the PAS report states, regarding any change to the delegation rules: ‘A review would need to be conducted in detail to set clear objectives and to fully understand the impact the options would have’.


Agenda Item 7(a) proposes an increase in the public call-in threshold from 8 to 15.


The statistics referenced in the original report apparently logged just the first reason for call-in, even when there were multiple reasons e.g. a case with both public call-in and Parish/Neighbourhood Council call-in was simply logged as a public call-in. The report does not make this at all clear and is highly misleading.


No official report has been published showing, for example, those cases only being determined by committee because of public call-in, nor any impact analysis of any proposed threshold change.


The recommendation to increase the public call-in threshold from 8 to 15 therefore appears unjustified, unsubstantiated and arbitrary. It would clearly be unfair to those residents living in small hamlets.


So, as required by the PAS report, please explain the rationale behind the proposed threshold increase together with the supporting evidence, and clarify the impact that this is expected to have on the volume of cases coming to planning committee?


Councillor Michael Willett, the Chairman of the Governance Committee replied as follows:


The purpose of a planning committee is to consider strategically important developments, which are of importance to the whole District. It was considered that 8 representations or more, which resulted in 44% of planning applications being considered at committee, did not represent the more strategically important applications.     A threshold of 15 or more is considered to better represent this position and ensure that more time can be spent on the most complex and contentious applications. This proposed threshold of 15 should be viewed in the context of the proposal to increase the speaking time of Parish and Neighbourhood Councils to 5 minutes. This will allow Parishes to represent their whole Parishes and not just those objecting or supporting a proposal. Furthermore the proposed increase in the threshold to 15 letters does not remove the ability for any application to be considered at committee if it is considered that it is important to do so. Applications would still be able to be elevated to committee by a district Councillor, Parish or Neighbourhood Council or at the discretion of the Head of Development.


As a supplementary question, Mr Kornycky asked, if the proposed increase in the threshold was not unfair to those living in small hamlets.


Councillor Willett noted the question and advised that, if not covered by the discussion on this item later on the agenda, a response would be provided.