Agenda item

Cabinet 28 November 2017


The following item has been identified for scrutiny:


·         Planning Scheme of Delegation (Cabinet report attached)


Councillor Parish presented the call-in submitted by Councillor Moriarty.


The Chairman, Councillor Humphrey reminded Members of the call-in process to be followed set out on page 51 of the Agenda.


The Portfolio Holder for Development addressed the Panel and explained that the Scheme of Delegation had been introduced to improve the planning process and enable better quality decisions to be made.  The Portfolio Holder explained that nothing was being taken away from Parish Councils.  It was explained that the purpose of the sifting panel was to review those applications that would normally go o Planning Committee, to determine whether or not they should go.


The Assistant Director, Environment and Planning advised Members that the introduction of the Sifting Panel had been an operational decision.  The Council was continually looking to deliver services more efficiently and effectively as there were ever pressing targets to meet.  The Assistant Director explained that with regard to the Community Strategy Involvement, it was a legal requirement to consult with Parish Councils on planning applications and that nothing would change as a result of these proposals.


The Chairman of the Planning Committee, Councillor Mrs Spikings informed the Panel that was an operational decision to introduce the sifting panel which comprised Chairman, Vice-Chairman of the Planning Committee, the Portfolio Holder for Development, a Member of the Planning Committee, the Executive Director and Assistant Director (Environment and Planning).  Councillor Mrs Spikings explained that the Parish Council could still comment on planning applications as they currently did.  The Panel was advised of the resource required to produce reports for the Planning Committee.  It was highlighted that often Planning Committees could take up to 5 hours.


Councillor Joyce advised that he supported the call in and added that he appreciated the need for streamlining the planning process but expressed concern that no notes or minutes were taken at the sifting meeting which could be used as evidence to defend any decision taken.  In response, the Executive Director – Environment and Planning explained that the Sifting Panel was not a formal meeting of the Council.  He explained that all decisions on planning applications were delegated to him as Executive Director within the Council’s Scheme of Delegation.  All decisions that were made (to either approve or refuse consent) were then accompanied by a report setting out the full reasons.  Nothing would change as a result of this process.  He explained that in the run up to every Planning Committee, decisions were currently taken on those applications that will go before the Committee and those that will be determined under delegated powers.  He explained that the proposed changes were an extension to that process.  The proposal to remove the automatic right of Parish Councils to insist that application go before committee would be balanced by a panel of Members that would oversee that process.  The Executive Director emphasised that the Sifting Panel was not a Committee and would not discuss the merits or otherwise of an application.  It would simply consider whether an application should be considered under delegated powers or by the Planning Committee.  The process and rationale had been debated by Planning Committee who had agreed that a 3 month trial be conducted to assess what the possible impact might be.  The Committee Members then sat in on a further trial sifting to understand the process and be satisfied with what was being proposed.


Councillor Daubney commented that it was a sensible decision to amend the Scheme of Delegation in order to streamline the planning process and added that any Member still had the right to call a planning application.  Councillor Daubney explained that the sifting panel was not empowered to make any decisions, but provided a better quality planning and decision making service.


Councillor Collop read out a statement from Councillor Parish outlining the reasons why he had supported the call-in process.


The Chairman, Councillor Humphrey commented that all Panels held sifting meetings to discuss agenda items.  No notes were taken, but officers noted what items would be considered to draft the agenda.  It was explained that Parish Councils could in principle object to planning applications then await responses from key consultees.  The Parish Councils could also seek assistance from their Ward Councillor.


The Chief Executive outlined the purpose of the call-in and advised the Panel that they were required to uphold the call in or not.


The Chairman, Councillor Humphrey invited the Portfolio Holder – Development to address the Panel.


The Portfolio Holder for Development explained that time and care had been taken to formulate the policy and a 3 month trial had been in operation to evaluate the sifting panel process.  He added that training for both Members and Parish Council could be arranged and Councillor Blunt undertook to discuss training with officers.


Councillor Joyce outlined Councillor Moriarty’s concerns and asked that a delay in the decision be considered in order that Parish and Town Councils could be consulted.  In response, the Executive Director, Environment and Planning explained that this was not the first time that changes had been made in the Scheme of Delegation  and reiterated that this was an operational decision to ensure that the Planning Committee considered those applications where there was a clear public interest.  The Council was seven years into identifying efficiency savings and was therefore constantly looking to streamline process.  It was therefore inevitable that changes would impact upon those who the Council served.  The Executive Director advised that it the Borough Council consulted on every operational change in a service then this would have a major impact on conducting day to day business.


The Executive Director and Assistant Director, Environment and Planning responded to questions relating to:


·         Reports produced for the Planning Committee.

·         Delegated Decisions.

·         Process of consultation with Parish Councils to remain as the current arrangement.

·         Sifting meetings – held on a monthly basis, this approach was adopted by a number of other local authorities.

·         Scheme of Delegation – varied in each local authority.

·         Resource and financial cost.

·         Councillor rights to call-in a planning application within 28 days of its publication on the weekly list would remain.


The Leader, Councillor Long commented that he had welcomed the call-in from Members and added that the preferred route would have been for the Panel to input prior to the decision being considered by Cabinet.


RESOLVED: The Corporate Performance Panel determined not to uphold the call-in.


Supporting documents: