Agenda item

Amendments to Development Control Committee Protocols


The Group Manager Planning and Development Services (“the Group Manager”) reported on proposed changes to the procedures relating to the Development Control Committee which had been the subject of discussion at the workshop held on 29 September 2021.  He informed the Committee that the current Planning Code of Practice was adopted by the Development Control Committee in April 2017, which included arrangements for the site inspection protocol, public speaking and the current scheme of delegation. 


He reported on a proposal to retain the number of objectors required before reporting a householder/minor application to committee at more than 2 i.e. 3 or more objectors, but to increase the required number of objectors on any other form of application to more than 4 i.e. 5 or more.  It was also proposed to treat repeated objections from different members of the same family as one neighbour objection.  He stated that petitions will be considered on the strength/value/merits of the objections raised and the weight of objection to a particular scheme, especially in the social media age.


The Group Manager also reported on a proposal to increase the speaking time for public speaking for objectors / Members / Town or Community Councillors / applicants / agents from the existing 3 minutes to 5 minutes.  He outlined a proposal to allow two objectors to speak for 2½ minutes each in case they had different points to raise. If two objectors were to agree to split the 5-minute speaking time between them applicants / agents would still have the same time overall (5 minutes) in which to respond to the objectors’ comments.  In addition, the Workshop had considered that it should be possible if a member of Committee wished to do so to ask technical / fact finding questions of the agent/applicant.  The agent/applicant would then be able to clarify points raised by Committee but this process would not be an opportunity to make further representations to committee. Any such questions could only be put to the agent/applicant with the agreement of the Chair of Committee (“the Chair”).  In the same way, Members would also be able to question objectors, with the agreement of the Chair, on any points arising from their address to committee to clarify any points of a technical/fact finding nature.


 The Group Manager stated that at the Workshop it was agreed that where an application was deferred after public speaking had taken place, public speakers should not be heard on the second occasion the application came before Committee unless the deferral resulted in a new consultation process or a requirement for an amended scheme. However, at the discretion of the Chair in consultation with the Group Manager and the Development and Building Control Manager public speakers might be allowed to address Committee on an item deferred from an earlier meeting. 


The Group Manager reported on the current process for late representations, whereby representations received by 4pm on the day before Committee are reported on the Amendment Sheet circulated to the Committee prior to the start of the meeting.  He stated that Members under the Code of Practice should not attempt to introduce documentation at the Committee meeting where the Planning Officer has not had an opportunity to consider the contents, to ensure Members receive properly considered and correct advice.  He informed the Committee that late representations would not be accepted beyond the close of play on the Tuesday before the committee meeting.  It was acknowledged that later representations may include valid material planning points that should be considered and included within the amendment sheet and in order to avoid unnecessary delays through deferrals where the planning officer is able to give Members considered advice on those representations they can be put to Members at the discretion of the Group Manager. Members should not give any significant weight to late submissions put directly to them instead of the Local Planning Authority, where they contain nothing new or assert a point without any clear evidence.  He stated that any representations sent directly to members of the Committee the evening or morning before the scheduled meeting should be passed on to Officers to add to the file.   


The Group Manager reported on the basis for the calling of site visits, which are fact-finding exercises and which are called where there is a material planning objection.  He stated that a request for a site visit must be made by the local ward member following consultation on the proposed development, in writing or electronically within 21 days of notification of the application, clearly  indicating the material planning reasons for the visit.  The Chair will be the arbiter where it may not be possible to arrange a site visit in terms of necessity, safety and expediency.  He informed the Committee that officers will continue to undertake site visits where safe to do so.  He stated that it was the view at the recent workshop that there was no longer a need for Panel site visits.  Site visits would take place from 9.30am on the day before the Committee.  Given current restrictions, it would be extremely difficult for full site visits to be undertaken and officers would be better placed to advise on the resumption of physical full committee site visits and any individual risk assessments.  He stated that anyone participating in a full site visit must do an individual risk assessment and, if they score highly, the mitigation will be that they remain at home.  He reminded the Committee of the decision it made on 17 September 2020 to temporarily suspend full site visits in lieu of virtual site visits, or expanded Panels, deemed by the Chair to be essential. Site visits should be conducted under the amended protocol which should be extended until the resumption of physical site visits is allowed.


RESOLVED:            1. That the proposed changes to the Code of Practice, Scheme of Delegation, the Site Inspection Protocol and Public Speaking Arrangements at Committee be agreed.

2. That the necessary changes to the scheme of delegation are made. 

3. That the protocol and changes be reviewed periodically.

4. That the temporary changes for site visits stay in place for a period not exceeding 12 months from the date of decision or when Covid 19 restrictions are fully lifted, whichever is the soonest.

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