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Role of elected members

The Planning Committee
     
The Planning Committee is an important committee in most local authorities and can sometimes be a controversial committee where members may find themselves being placed under a certain amount of pressure in dealing with applications and proposals affecting their area and local communities.
 
The Planning Committee is an important committee in most local authorities and can sometimes be a controversial committee where members may find themselves being placed under a certain amount of pressure in dealing with applications and proposals affecting their area and local communities. Indeed, Members will expect to receive more letters and enquiries from members of the public about planning matters than on any other subject during their time in public service. In some authorities the committee may be referred to as the environment committee or be split into several committees, some dealing with policy and others dealing with development control.

There is a clear code of conduct for members (and officers) as to how they should conduct themselves in what is effectively a quasilegal process. This emanates from the ‘Report on the Standards of Conduct in Local Government' produced by Lord Nolan in July 1997 which suggested a Code of Best Practice in Planning Procedures.The main findings of the Nolan Report were:
  • Members and Officers should avoid indicating the likely decision on an application and thus avoid committing the Planning Authority during contact with the applicant or objectors.

 

Cartoon of a planning committee

  • There should be opportunities for all stakeholders in the process to make presentations to the Planning Committee.
  • All applications considered by a Planning Committee should be the subject of a full written report from the Head of Planning that incorporates a firm recommendation.
  • The reasons given by the Planning Committee for refusing or granting an application should be fully minuted, especially where the decision has been contrary to the Head of Planning's recommendation or is contrary to the Development Plan.
  • Members and officers should make all declarations at the Planning Committee of significant contact with applicants and objectors in addition to the expected disclosure of pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests. Members should not be appointed to a Planning Committee without first having to agree to undertake a period of training in planning procedure.

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