Agenda item

Review of Delegated Powers Given to the Head of Planning and Development for Determining Planning Applications

To consider the report of the Solicitor to the Council (to follow).


The Head of Planning and Development presented the Review of Delegated Powers Given to the Head of Planning and Development for Determining Planning Applications report to the Committee and sought the Committee’s approval for the proposed amendments to the Scheme of Officer Delegations prior to its going to full Council for adoption.


Members were provided with a summary of the work carried out by officers whereby they had examined the existing scheme of delegation for planning applications and the opportunities within the scheme to make changes to improve its effectiveness. It was the view of officers that the current scheme led to too many small-scale planning applications being referred to committee, drawing attention away from applications of legitimate wider public interest and added an additional burden on officer resources reporting smaller cases to Committee.


Officers had reviewed other Kent authorities’ schemes of delegations in respect of planning and proposed new criteria that would trigger an application being referred to the Planning Committee. These changes included:


·        Major planning applications to be reported to committee where a significant number (21 or more) of contrary representations to the officer’s recommendation had been received.


·        Member call-in route for applications to be amended to ensure call-ins occurred where there were robust and legitimate planning grounds, with the Member calling-in the application attending the committee meeting to address the Committee and the issues raised.


Councillor P D Jull raised concerns with the proposed scheme and was of the opinion that it undermined the democratic process.  Having applied the proposed triggers to applications that had been referred to the planning committee within the last year, he/ had established that only three applications would have been referred to the committee if this scheme was in place.


Furthermore, he was concerned that Members’ ability to add conditions or amendments to the officer’s recommendation would be removed if applications did not go before the Committee. The Planning and Development Manager advised that applications did not need to go to committee to achieve this and that under the current scheme all Members had the opportunity to discuss conditions and amendments with officers.


There was a consensus of opinion that the threshold of 21 or more contrary representations was too high. Members cited rural areas and some town areas as examples whereby major applications would struggle to attract this threshold if the applications affected only a few.


Members discussed the proposed Member call-in route. The scheme allowed for members of the public to approach Members to call-in an application that had not satisfied the criteria/threshold to go before the Committee. It was the view of Members that this would place an onerous burden on them.


In light of concerns from the Committee the Planning and Development Manager clarified that it was their intention that any Member could call-in an application, not just the ward member.


Accepting there would be criteria to follow that would ensure the call-in route supported applications that warranted consideration by the planning committee, Members queried the reporting route of those applications screened by the Head of Service and Chairman of the Planning Committee and that were not brought before the Committee for consideration.


It was raised by Councillor S S Chandler that the report did not show the consideration given to town and parish councils’ involvement in the proposed scheme. The Planning and Development Manager advised that consideration had been given as to whether towns and parish councils should be included in the screening process. 


As an alternative to the proposals, it was suggested by Councillor P D Jull that applications could be circulated to Members with the officer’s recommendation and conditions and if 5 or more Members requested it, the application be brought to committee for consideration. This would, in his view, avoid the burden of committee report writing for officers and speed up the application process.


Whilst the Committee supported officers’ intent, they were of the opinion that officers needed to review the proposals in respect of the proposed scheme and to re-look at the number of contrary representations required and other suggestions made by members, ensuring in particular, that officers consult with members of the Planning Committee before an amended scheme comes back to the Governance Committee.


RESOLVED:     (a)   That the Review of Delegated Powers Given to the Head of Planning and Development for Determining Planning Applications report be noted.


(b)   That officers consult with members of the Planning Committee and consider those comments of the Governance Committee and revise the proposed scheme.

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