Public speaking at committees

We operate a scheme which allows a limited right for the public to speak at planning committees. This information explains the rules of the scheme and how and when the public can speak. The scheme only relates to the Planning and Development Committee and to planning and related applications.

About 90% of all applications are decided by officers and not considered by councillors at committee.  These 'delegated applications' are not subject to public speaking. When an application is received, a provisional decision is made as to whether it is a delegated case or a committee case.  

Who can speak at committee?

Three people can speak to committee in relation to any one planning application. One speaker can represent the applicant and one speaker can represent the objector(s), and one speaker can represent the parish or town council. 
The speaker representing the applicant must have the permission of the applicant to represent him/her. 
An applicant can speak even though an objector does not, and vice-versa .
The speaker representing the objector(s) can be a neighbour, interested individual or a representative of a residents' association/ amenity group or from a town council/ parish council.
The speaker representing the town or parish council must be authorised by the parish council, the parish clerk or the parish planning committee, as the case may be. The speaker should speak on behalf of the parish council and not as an individual. A parish representative can only speak in relation to an application within the parish boundary.
In addition to the above, the ward councillor for the area in which the application is located may address the committee (if not a member of the committee) at the discretion of the chairSpeaking at committee is voluntary and no party is obliged to attend committee to speak. 

How are speakers selected?

The applicant may speak themselves or elect someone on their behalf. One other member of the public may speak in support of an application if the applicant chooses not to do so, and the applicant will be advised of their interest.
Objectors wishing to speak should register by phone with the public speaking officer.
Where more than one objector wishes to attend the committee, the council will contact the person who first registered their intention to speak and provide a contact name and telephone number of the other persons, to give that person the opportunity to combine their comments and select a single spokesperson. The council will only permit the first person to register to speak, unless he/she submits an alternative name.
All speakers must register their wish to speak at least 2 clear working days before the date of the committee meeting.
All speakers who have registered will be informed of the actual committee date when the agenda is finalised. Speakers cannot 'turn up' to speak at committee without the due notice being given.

What can speakers say?

Speakers have three minutes to state their views. Information already given to members in the officer's report or in letters of objection need not be repeated by speakers.
The ward councillor is not limited to 3 minutes, but the chair may impose a time limit as to the length of the address.
Speakers should confine their comments to matters relevant to the planning application. The following is a brief summary of matters which do not normally influence a decision on whether to grant planning permission: 
  • Civil disputes between neighbours 
  • Alleged increase or decrease in property values 
  • Loss of a private view
  • A developer's character, morals, motives or financial circumstances
  • Matters covered by other legislation (public health, licensing etc)
  • Restrictive covenants
Speakers should not introduce new information, make new "promises", verbally amend the application or attempt to negotiate with the committee or hand in or circulate written material of photogrphs on the day of committee. If an applicant introduces this type of information, the chair may stop the speaker and invite the committee to consider the application on the basis of existing information.  If there is a need to add new material to written comments already submitted, speakers should send copies to the relevant planning officer a week before the meeting so that it can be properly taken into account.
The chairman reserves the right to stop or eject the speaker.

What happens at committee?

Speakers should arrive at the Committee Room shortly before the start of the meeting to register with the public speaking officer and sit in a reserved area in the committee room. When the appropriate application is announced speakers should take a seat at the special seat provided.
A planning officer will introduce the application, provide any recent information not included in the written report and provide a verbal recommendation. The chair will then ask the speaker to make his/her comments. The chair will ask the speaker to stop precisely on three minutes. The speaker should then return to the seating provided. The applicant's representative will speak first followed by the objectors representative.
The applicant’s representative will speak first followed by the objectors representative followed by the parish representative and then the ward councillor.
Speakers and councillors of the committee cannot interrupt or cross-examine each other. The officer or councillors may comment on the facts presented by a speaker but will not engage in any further discussion with the speaker.

When an application goes to committee

During the processing of a planning application by officers, applicants can ask the case officer about the likely recommendation and when the application is likely to be considered by committee. This is also indicated through the public access system available via the planning services web page.  The officer's report and recommendation are prepared about seven working days before the committee and are publicly available five clear working days beforehand. The written recommendation may not be made at this stage if more information is awaited. A verbal recommendation will always be made by an officer at the committee.
On occasion  an application may have changed or been withdrawn by the applicant.  In this event the speaker will be told that they cannot speak.  Regrettably this is unavoidable, however we will try to contact speakers as soon as we are aware of this.

Is public speaking compulsory?

No-one is obliged to speak at committee. Speaking at committee supplements and does not replace written comments. Persons wishing to speak should always put their views in writing before the committee meeting.

Information about the public speaking scheme scheme

Information on the scheme will be included in all consultation letters and site notices to the public.
Applicants or their agents will be informed of the scheme when the application is registered.
The public speaking officer will inform the applicant if there is to be a speaker against the application. 

Who can help?

All enquiries about public speaking should be made to the public speaking officer in planning administration (tel: 01723 232323), from 8.30am to 5pm Monday-Friday or by email.  When contacting staff, please make it clear that you wish to register to speak at Committee. 
The Planning and Development Committee meets every three weeks.