The Assistant Director, Environment and Planning presented the report and highlighted the key proposed changes and drew the Panel’s attention to 2.8 which set out other changes to the Scheme of Delegation.
Councillor Joyce referred to the letter read out at the beginning of the meeting by the Chair from Stoke Ferry Parish Council. Councillor Joyce outlined the reasons why the Borough Councillor should determine in his/her own mind whether they wished to call-in a planning application. In response, the Chair explained that the letter from Stoke Ferry Parish Council was in relation to an inadvertent omission to call-in a planning application and to ask if there was an alternative way for a Parish Council to call-in an application if there was a breakdown in relationships/communication. The Chair commented, could the Parish Council contact the Chair of the Planning Committee as an option to call-in an application.
Councillor Mrs Spikings commented that this would be a disadvantage for King’s Lynn as there was no Parish Council and there needed to be a fair approach for all. Councillor Mrs Spikings added that the current system worked well with the correct checks and balances in place.
The Assistant Director, Environment and Planning explained that a Councillor could only call in a planning application within their own ward unless there were exceptional circumstances. Councillor Spikings advised that Councillors currently had 28 days to call in an application and that the Parish Council could send a reminder to the relevant Borough Councillor to call in an application. The Chair added that at the next training session for Parish Councils it be suggested that the Parish Council email the Borough Councillor to call in an application and copy in the Planning Department. The Executive Director, Environment and Planning confirmed training would be scheduled for Parish Councils at the end of the summer.
In response to questions from Councillor Joyce on Councillors, Officers or former Councillors acting at Planning Agents and the LGA guidance, the Monitoring Officer referred to an email from a Councillor regarding planning issues relating to former officers and councillors and any such planning applications should be determined by the Planning Committee and explained that the LGA and Planning Advisory Service offered guidance which was not statutory. The Monitoring Officer provided a summary of the guidance and the Borough Council’s current position.
The Chair referred to 2.8 on tree works applications that could not be called in by Councillors and asked if Councillors received prior notification of any such works. In response, the Assistant Director Environment and Planning undertook to check whether or not they were on the weekly list, and respond direct to the Chair.
The Chair referred to the agenda for the Planning Sifting Panel not containing details of the applications to be sifted. The Portfolio Holder for Development explained that often the details of the applications were not known until 24 hours prior to the Sifting Panel but that the decisions of the Planning Sifting Panel were published on the Borough Council’s website. Councillor Spikings explained that the Sifting Panel did not debate any application, but that the planning officer presented the application, Councillors on the sifting panel would determine if the application went to the Planning Committee or could go under delegated authority for a decision.
Councillor Nash commented that there should be a mechanism for the correspondence for the sifting panel to be available when the Agenda was published. In response the Assistant Director explained that the Planning Officer presented the report and advised of representations received from Parish Councils and the Councillors made the decision whether the application be determined by the Planning Committee or Scheme
The Portfolio Holder for Development added that if there was any doubt then the application would be determined by the Planning Committee.
The Chair drew the Panel’s attention to the recommendations set out on page 68 of the Agenda.
Councillor Joyce commented that he was quite happy with recommendation 1 but not recommendation 2 and that the Borough Council should adopt the Local Government Association Guidance to include applications submitted from both present and former Councillors, officers and Planning Agents who had a pecuniary interest to be determined by the Planning Committee.
The Monitoring Officer advised that what Councillor Joyce proposed would affect recommendation 1.
The Chair therefore drew the Panel’s attention to Recommendation 1: That the scheme of delegation be amended as set out in the report, and as attached to this report.
The Chair asked if there were any amendments.
Councillor Joyce proposed an amendment to recommendation 1 that the addition of planning applications from former councillors and officers should be determined by the Planning Committee.
The Monitoring Officer clarified the amendment from Councillor Joyce and that addition planning applications submitted by former councillors and acting as planning agents be determined by the Planning Committee.
Councillor Joyce confirmed the amendment as set out by the Monitoring Officer and that the Borough Council adopt the Local Government Association Guidance.
Councillor Spikings expressed concern that there was no timescale identified. Councillor Spikings stated that this was not necessary if a Councillor left the authority but recognised that the Borough Council wished to be transparent and that placed a former Councillor at a disadvantage.
Councillor Nash seconded the proposal made by Councillor Joyce.
On being put to the vote was lost.
The Chair drew the Panel’s attention to Recommendation 1 as set out in the report and on being put to the vote was carried. There were two abstentions – Councillors Moriarty and Morley.
The Chair thanked the Assistant Director, Environment and Planning for presenting the report and responding to questions and comments from the Panel.
RECOMMENDATION: The Panel support the recommendations to Cabinet as set out below in the report.
1) That the scheme of delegation be amended as set out in the report, and as attached to the report.
2) That the operation of the scheme be reviewed in summer 2023, to assess the impact of the changes.