The Assistant Director – Environment and Planning presented the report which provided an update of the operation of the Planning Sifting Panel, following the review by the Corporate Performance Panel at its 19 February 2019 meeting.
The Panel’s attention was specifically drawn to Sections 3.2, 3.3, 3.6, 3.7.
The Assistant Director – Environment and Planning, the Portfolio for Development and Chair of the Planning Committee responded to questions in relation to:
· National Planning targets, the Council had to adhere to (section 2.2).
· Process for determining and reporting delegated decisions to Members.
· Scheme of Delegation and examples given how other councils operated without Member involvement. The Council determined the sifting panel would be the best option and it involved Members in the process.
· Reasons for setting up the Planning Sifting Panel.
· Operation, role and membership of the sifting panel. A schedule of decisions is published on the Council’s website.
· Correspondence/feedback from Parish Councils in response to the letter sent by the Chair and how those comments will be taken forward.
· Parish Councils have 21 days to comment on planning applications.
· Parish Councils being informed of decision of Planning Sifting Panel.
· Five-year land supply and impact on planning applications submitted.
· Borough Councillor right to call in application to the Planning Committee.
· Number of applications previously considered by the Planning Committee prior to the introduction of the sifting panel.
· Number of applications (maximum 10) currently being considered by the Planning Committee by zoom to enable the Committee to make good decisions.
The Chair commented that he had taken on board the comments made regarding the Letter he had sent to Parish Councils, but added that it was a shame it was not a letter from the Council and outlined the reasons why he had done so.
Under Standing Order 34, Councillor C Morley and Holmes addressed the Panel and responses were given to the questions asked/comments made.
At the invitation of the Chair, Councillor C J Crofts Chair of the Planning Committee addressed the Panel and explained that he had concern when the sifting panel was initially set up. However, the Chair explained that he now fully supported the operation of the sifting panel. . Members of the Planning Committee were invited to sit on the sifting panel on a rota basis. Assurance was given that Parish Council’s comments were taken into consideration before a decision was made. If strong planning reasons were given against Officer recommendation it would automatically go to the Planning Committee for determination. Delegated decisions were always the last item on each Planning Agenda and Members had the opportunity to comment on any decision at the Planning Committee meeting.
At the invitation of the Chair, the Portfolio Holder – Development addressed the Panel, a summary of which is set out below.
I was amazed to see the copy of the letter to the parish councils headed “Consulting Parish Councils on Planning Applications”. I do not believe that you consulted with myself or anyone about the letter and asked why the Portfolio Holder was not consulted. If the Vice-Chair of the Corporate Performance Panel had consulted with the Portfolio Holder a better process could have been made. The Portfolio Holder commented that he did care about the views of everybody, especially the views of Parish Councils.
The Panel was informed of the membership of the sifting panel. If a parish council has material planning considerations and their views are contrary to the views of officers, the sifting panel will immediately recommend that the application be determined by the full Planning Committee.
The Portfolio Holder highlighted that the report today was an update on the performance of the planning sifting panel over the past 12 months and not a review of the consultation with a selective number of Parish Councils.
In conclusion, the Portfolio Holder explained that he had not been copied into the summary of responses from Parish Councils, but only the two letters received on 22 July 2020, so he was unable to comment on the responses received, but undertook to look at any valid issues with officers and come back to the panel with a statement. The Panel was informed that it was the Council’s intention at the earlies opportunity to add the role of the sifting panel to the next agenda of the planning update to Parish Councils. Previous updates to Parish Councils had included workshops assisting them to understand what material planning considerations were and this would be repeated. An overview of the process of delegated decisions was given to those present.
The Chair thanked the Portfolio Holder for Development for the above statement.
The Chair of the Planning Committee concurred with the statement made by the Portfolio Holder for Development.
The Leader reminded Members of their role on calling in planning applications that raised wider concern or that challenged the identified sites.
The Chair confirmed that he did not consult with the Portfolio Holder for Development prior to sending out the letter because there is a distinction between scrutiny panels and the Executive and it would have been wrong for himself to consult with the Portfolio Holder.
The Chair thanked the Portfolio Holder for Development that he had undertaken to look at the responses from the Parish Councils and come back to the panel.
The Chair thanked Parish Councils for their participation and the Portfolio Holder for Development for their contributions.
RESOLVED: 1) The Panel noted the report providing an update of the operation of the sifting panel since the 19 February 2019 meeting.
2) The Chair undertook to circulate individual responses received from Parish Councils upon request from the Panel.