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 open the meeting and deal with any administrative matters, such as apologies from those who cannot attend. A vote will be taken on the minutes of the previous meeting. The Chairman will also remind Councillors and Officers that they have a duty to declare any interest in items on the agenda.
Each item on the Agenda is introduced by the Chairman. 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 on our 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:
What is the basis for a decision?
- 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
- Reduction in property values
- Ownership disputes
- Business competition
- Moral considerations
- Restrictive covenants
- Personal circumstances or private rights
- Matters controlled by other legislation (eg licensing)
Planning and development committee site visits
- Site visits are solely for the purpose of viewing the site, understanding its location and immediate environs to be able to put the development proposal into context, and seeking clarification of the facts of the application.
- Application sites are usually in private ownership onto which interested parties do not have a right of access and therefore interested parties, such as objectors, will not normally be able to attend or accompany the Committee on a site visit. In instances in which they have obtained specific access consent, or on publically accessible land, third parties (such as applicants/agents, local members) must not seek to engage with members of the Planning Committee. The opportunity to address members of the Planning Committee at the committee meeting is governed by the public speaking process. Members of the Committee should not directly engage any third party person present and should address any questions to the officers present through the Chairman.
- Third parties (such as applicants/agents) will only be asked a question directly by officers through the Chairman where officers are either unable to answer the point raised e.g. where a factual query about the process/company is not directly related to planning, or the applicant/agent is best placed to answer it owing to specialist knowledge etc.
- All Committee members need to ensure that they can hear the officers’ presentation and the questions and answers, and should stay together as a single group.
- The Chairman will seek confirmation that members are satisfied they have seen everything they need to make a decision and will draw the site inspection to a close.
- Before, during and after the site visit Members of the Committee should politely avoid engaging in private conversations with applicants, agents or any other third parties including objectors as this can give the wrong impression to others present or anyone observing the site visit.
- For the purposes of factual record, attendance at a site visit will be recorded by the lead officer including the locations visited.
- As the purpose of the visit is not to debate but simply to establish facts about the site and its surroundings, no formal notes of a site visit will be recorded, other than the attendance and locations visited as noted above.
- Members should avoid discussing the merits of the application with each other during the course of the site visit.
What if I don't like the decision?
- 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