This report seeks the Committee’s support for extending the current temporary scheme of delegation concerning the referral of planning applications to the Planning Committee onto a permanent basis.
The Committee considered a report seeking support for extending the current temporary scheme of delegation for the referral of planning applications to the Planning Committee onto a permanent basis.
The Committee was reminded that on 1 April 2020, the Committee had agreed to change the provisions in the employeescheme of delegation relating to the triggers for the escalation of planning applications from officer to Committee level for a temporary period with effect from 2 April 2020 until such time that the Government’s guidance on social distancing in response to the Covid-19 pandemic was lifted.
The Head of Planning informed the Committee that he considered that over the past year the arrangements had worked well. With a lesser number of applications being referred to the Committee for determination, the Committee had been able to concentrate on determining the larger, more controversial planning applications. Prior to the extension of the delegations in April 2020, agendas had included a greater number of applications with smaller, often uncontentious minor or householder applications being placed towards the end of the agenda. From April 2020, meetings of the Committee had been live streamed but prior to live streaming, it was not unusual for applicants to attend meetings and sit through lengthy debates on other applications whilst waiting for their applications to be considered only for there to be no debate on those applications as recommendations were just agreed. In addition, dealing with minor and householder type applications under delegated powers also resulted in decision notices being issued more promptly.
It was noted that should the Committee be minded to support the adoption of the revised delegation onto a permanent basis, this would need to be ratified by Full Council.
In response to a question, the Head of Planning clarified that under the temporary extension to the delegation scheme, referred to in paragraph 4.2 of the report, the wording ‘either the Chairman, Vice Chairman or the Opposition Spokesperson’ meant that should any one of the three request that a particular planning application be referred to Committee for determination, it would stay on the agenda and not be processed under delegated powers.
The Committee discussed the report and during the debate it was suggested that the temporary arrangements be extended whilst the Covid-19 pandemic remained as opposed to making the arrangement permanent, with the period of such extension to be agreed by Full Council following consultation with Group Leaders and Independent Members. The Principal Lawyer – Place Team advised that if the Committee was minded to support the continuation of the extended delegation scheme for a temporary period, this would be a matter for consideration by the Monitoring Officer and not Full Council. Only if the change was to be requested on a permanent basis would the matter require referral to Full Council.
On this basis it was suggested that the newly appointed Monitoring Officer when in post be requested to discuss this matter with Group Leaders and Independent Members to determine a recommended period for the proposed extension.
The Committee noted that there had been one occasion when the date of the Planning Spokes meeting had been rescheduled due to a planning presentation and concern was expressed that this had resulted in an application not being referred to the Committee for determination when it might otherwise have been. In response, the Head of Planning advised that in hindsight, the date of the meeting of Planning Spokes should not have been moved and reassured the Committee that this would not happen again. However, referring to the planning application referred to, this was for a new industrial use in an existing industrial area and therefore despite the request from a Parish Council for the planning application to be referred to Committee for determination, the Planning Spokes had been satisfied that there were no reasonable planning grounds on which to refuse the application and other than the comments from the Parish Council, there had been no comments from individual members of the public.
Following consideration, and having regard to the comments expressed by the Head of Planning, the Principal Lawyer – Place Team and Members along with the Government’s roadmap for easing Covid-19 restrictions which would not take place until 21 June at the earliest, it was suggested that consideration of this matter be deferred to enable the newly appointed Monitoring Officer to discuss the temporary extension of the current delegation with Group Leaders and the Independent Members.
Consideration of this matter be deferred to enable the newly appointed Monitoring Officer to discuss the temporary extension of the current delegation with Group Leaders and the Independent Members along with the length of such temporary extension, it being noted that the current arrangements would remain in place for the Committee’s June meeting having regard to the pending Government’s anticipated announcement concerning the relaxation of the Covid-19 restrictions on 21 June 2021.