Planning Committee procedures

Covid-19 Response - Interim Planning Committee Procedure

Currently over 90% of decisions on planning applications are delegated to officers, in line with the Council’s adopted scheme of delegation. Decision-making on applications falling under the scheme of delegation continues unaffected, with the requisite technology generally performing well whilst the entire Planning Service is working remotely.

The current ‘lockdown’ situation means that the Council’s Planning and Development Committee cannot meet in its usual form. The Government has stated its desire for local planning authorities to continue to function as effectively as possible in the current situation, but has, to date, not put forward preferred arrangements. Consequently alternative means for decision making need to be set in place for the short and longer term by individual councils.
 
An extended hiatus on decision making would not be beneficial for the local economy, and may slow the economic recovery of the area as and when current movement restrictions are relaxed. Furthermore the decisions taken by the local planning authority have the potential to be the subject of third party appeal and/or legal challenge, the latter in particular being able to focus on the mechanics of any decision made. Applicants also have the potential to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate if delays to decision making take an application beyond its deadline for determination. Hence it is essential that a robust and timely decision making process is at the very heart of any alternative mechanisms put in place.
 
Work continues to find a suitable and reliable solution that would facilitate effective committee working and enable the committee to meet remotely. At this stage it is considered that the technology is not yet ready to achieve this without significant risk to the effectiveness of committee meetings and decision-making, and without exposing participants to risk of systems failure and potentially procedural challenge. The normal size of Planning and Development Committee meetings (17 members, plus officers and other third parties) presents logistical hurdles.
 
With this in mind an alternative interim process has been devised, one that facilitates members’ and other third parties’ involvement whilst minimising the risks inherent in a remote decision making meeting.
 
The process is as follows:
 
1. An agenda comprising reports on planning applications will be published (29 May 2020). Please click here to view the Agenda and Reports.

2. Members of committee will have 5 working days to respond in writing with any comments on the applications and associated recommendation. Queries on aspects of detail to inform Members’ consideration should be directed to the Planning Services Manager/Area Planning Manager and the application case officer.

The requirement for members of the committee to declare any interests in the items remains; advice should be sought from the Council’s legal service, and written comments on items should not be submitted if the interest is deemed prejudicial.

In making comments, Members should confirm that they have read the report and accessed and considered relevant case information that is available on the public access pages of the Scarborough Borough Council website (https://www.scarborough.gov.uk/node/102) and ensure any comments are focussed on material planning matters. They should confirm whether they are in agreement with the recommendation, and if not set out the material planning reasons on which they have based their alternative position.

Members’ comments should be sent to planning.services@scarborough.gov.uk not later than 5 pm one week from the publication of the agenda (by 5 pm on Friday 5 June).  Please mark clearly which application(s) are the subject of comment in any submissions.

3. Third parties (town and parish councils, ward councillors, applicants, objectors) will be notified of the agenda publication in advance and have the option to provide a written statement of maximum length 400 words no later than 2 working days before the end of the 5 day period for member comment.  Written comments should be received by 5 pm on Wednesday 3 June.

Comments should be sent to planning.services@scarborough.gov.uk.  Please mark clearly which application(s) are the subject of comment in any submissions.

All comments received that comply with these parameters will be circulated to members of the committee. Late comments, or those above the word limit, will not be accepted. It is stressed that comments should not simply repeat those made previously in commenting on the application, and should be limited to material planning considerations.

In disseminating third party representations to members of the committee, Officers may provide commentary and advice on matters raised, particularly if issues immaterial to the decision are made. It is appreciated that certain Town and Parish Councils may not be in a position to meet and discuss items, however the attendance of such bodies at normal planning committee meetings is relatively limited, and the opportunity to comment at the outset of the application process has remained unchanged, any comments made at that time will have been taken into account in assessing the application.

4. Planning Officers will assess Members comments and produce a short supplementary analysis/commentary report to be circulated to the chair and vice chair following the ‘period for comment’.

5. The Chair/Vice Chair and Planning Services Manager and case officer will liaise and discuss the recommendation in light of comments received.

6. Based on that discussion and all other matters, the Planning Services Manager will provide the reports and additional short recommendation to the Chief Executive who, if content to do so, will consent to the decision being issued in accordance with the recommendation.

 


Our Pre-Covid 19 Procedures:

About 90% of planning applications are decided by the professional planning staff.  These decisions are reported for information only to the Planning and Development Committee.  The committee has the responsibility to determine the most important or significant applications. 

Who are the people at the committee?

In the centre at the front sits the Chair, who is a Councillor appointed by the Council for this role. To his/her side are Officers employed by the Council to advise on Planning, Legal and Administrative matters.

The Planning Officers will usually includeThe Head of Planning Services and other Planning Officers who will present individual cases.

Sometimes, specialist Policy, Legal or Design Officers will also attend.

Members of the Committee sit around the table facing the Chairman. They are all elected Borough Councillors.

Members of the public and the Applicant are entitled to be present but may not speak unless they have registered for the Public Speaking Scheme.

How is business dealt with?

The Chairman will announce each item. There is normally a comprehensive written report circulated with the agenda. (This report is available for viewing 5 working days prior to the committee date at the relevant Planning Office and on the web site). The Chairman will then ask an Officer to present the report, bringing it up to date if necessary.  Any speakers will then be heard.

The chair invites questions and views from the Members and the Officer will reply whenever necessary.

Next, a motion will be proposed and seconded, debated if necessary, and a vote taken. In the event of a tie the Chair has a second or casting vote.

There are three possible decisions:

Approve: usually subject to conditions, which must be reasonable and may be challenged on appeal to the Secretary of State.
 
Refuse: sound planning reasons must be given which the authority may have to substantiate in the event of an appeal.  A refusal may be agreed even though the principle of the development is acceptable.  In these cases the applicant may wish to resubmit an amended application.
 
Defer: if all the information needed to make a decision is not available or to allow time for further action before the decision is finally made.  Deferment is very rare.
 
There are strict rules about the declaration of interests, affecting both Members and Officers.  Where the Committee decision is different to the officer recommendation, the Committee are required to give reasons and these are minuted.

What is the basis for a decision?

Decisions must be based on planning issues, for example:
  • Central Government guidance
  • Regional Policy
  • Local Policy
  • Highway safety
  • Landscape impact
  • Local amenity, noise, privacy
  • Case law and previous decisions
  • Conservation of buildings, trees etc
  • Appearance
 
The following examples are not normally planning issues:
 
  • Reduction in property values
  • Ownership disputes
  • Business competition
  • Moral considerations
  • Restrictive covenants
  • Personal circumstances or private rights
  • Matters controlled by other legislation (eg licensing)
A retrospective application submitted after work has been carried out has to be determined on its planning merits like any other. Even if many people object, permission cannot be refused without good planning reasons.

What if I don't like the decision?

The applicant may appeal to the Secretary of State against refusal or the imposition of conditions. If at appeal either the Appellant or the Council is held to have behaved unreasonably, costs may be awarded to the other side.
 
third party (eg a neighbour) has no right of appeal to the Secretary of State, but there are other options:
 
  • The Council’s internal complaints procedure (complaints about the conduct of Members or Officers)
  • The Ombudsman (complaints about the way a matter has been handled – not about the decision itself)
  • Judicial review in the High Court
 
Further information about the first two options is available from Council Offices, but the third requires expert advice from a solicitor.
 
The Planning and Development Committee meets every 3 weeks at The Town Hall, St Nicholas Street, Scarborough.  The exact dates can be viewed on the Planning Committee meetings page.