Planning Committee 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 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:

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 rare.
 
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.
 

Planning and development committee site visits

The general position is that itis for members of the committee to familiarise themselves with the issues material to a decision, including site specific matters as they deem appropriate. In certain instances a collective visit to which all committee members are invited will be arranged to view a site that is the subject of planning application due to be considered at  Planning and Development Committee. Typically this will be where there are very particular site specific issues that would benefit from clear viewing and explanation. Attendance by members at site visits is encouraged but not mandatory, and a failure to attend does not automatically bar a member from taking part in the debate and decision at the committee meeting proper. It would be for the member to decide whether their absence from the site visit meant they were lacking sufficient information such that they should recuse themselves from the formal decision. The site visit will normally be programmed to take place in the period between publication for the agenda for the committee meeting and the meeting itself. When such visits are arranged it is important for all parties to be aware that whilst this is not a formal decision making meeting in and of its own right, it must be conducted in an appropriate and professional manner. All parties are therefore asked to be aware of, and follow the protocol for committee site visits.
 
Protocol for 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 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 by contacting 232323, but the third requires expert advice from a solicitor.
 
The Planning and Development Committee meets approximately every 3 weeks. The exact dates can be viewed on the Planning Committee meetings page. Please consult the Agenda for details of the Committee venue.