Agenda item


To invite Governance Committee to review the options for change considered by the Improving Planning Performance Working Party and Planning Committee; and to recommend which options should be adopted.


(Councillor David Jamieson, Chairman of the Improving Planning Performance Working Party was in attendance for this item.)


Councillor Jamieson introduced the background to and purpose of the review of planning performance. He explained that the Improving Planning Performance Working Party had met twice and had made a series of recommendations which had been considered by the Planning Committee on 21st January 2014.


The Head of Development Management referred to the options for change proposed by the Working Party and Planning Committee and he also made particular reference to the draft Planning Committee Handbook, the revised and updated Planning Code of Conduct and the amended Planning Committee Scheme of Delegation.


The options for change were separated into the categories below and the following points were noted:-


A - Delegation


Options 1 to 10 – the recommendations of the Working Party and Planning Committee were supported.


B - Frequency of Planning Committee meetings


Options 1 and 3 - the recommendations of the Working Party and Planning Committee were supported. In respect of Option 2, The Committee supported a trial from the beginning of the 2014/15 Civic Year subject to additional meetings being scheduled if performance deteriorates and the start times of the Planning Committee should be kept under close review as part of the 4 weekly meeting cycle.


C - Site visits


Options 1 to 8 - the recommendations of the Working Party and Planning Committee were supported.


D - Speaking at Planning Committee


Options 1 to 16 - the recommendations of the Working Party and Planning Committee were supported.  When considering relevant time limits, Members noted that a useful distinction between speakers and the potential for different time limits was whether they are formally elected or not.  Thus Councillors, MPs, MEPs and Parish Councils should all have up to 4 minutes each, whilst objectors and applicants/supporters should have 3 minutes each.  It was suggested that if a Ward Member believed that they needed more time than the ‘standard’ four minutes, then at the time of registering to speak they would be able to request additional time.  Such a request would then be considered by the Chairman.  In relation to the order of speaking, Members suggested that if an applicant does not wish to address the meeting but a supporter does, then they should be heard immediately after the objector.


E – Training


Options 1 to 6 - the recommendations of the Working Party and Planning Committee were supported. It was suggested that the training sessions should be open to all Members to attend and that those that know they will be on Planning Committee could attend together with any other Members who may be asked (or are otherwise interested) to sit on the Committee as a substitute.  Group Leaders would have a role to encourage appropriate attendance.  It was also noted that if training were to be missed then there would be opportunity for alternative arrangements to be made.


F - Early and greater Member and third party engagement


Options 1 to 6 - the recommendations of the Working Party and Planning Committee were supported. The Committee agreed that the engagement with Planning Committee members should be held in public unless the information to be disclosed was of a commercially confidential nature.  Options for the use of existing meetings should be considered to make best use of available resources, and be consistent across options 1 to 3.


G - Planning Committee Protocol and other options


Options 1 to 8 and 10 to 14 - the recommendations of the Working Party were supported.


Option 9 – the Committee shared the Planning Committee’s concern regarding Members using social media during meetings.  There was a perception that such practices may expose the local authority to unnecessary risk if full attention wasn’t being given to the matters being discussed and/or additional resources needed to support the practice if the task was given to a single officer as their dedicated task at the meeting.


It was agreed that where appropriate, officers should be permitted to Tweet from an official account provided this did not unduly divert their attention from the meeting.  .  Members would be discouraged from Tweeting during the meeting as this could give the impression that they are not concentrating on the matter being discussed or could be open to accusations that they were communicating with those wishing to influence them.


H - Additional options for change


Options 1 and 2 - the recommendations of Officers and the Planning Committee were supported.


Planning Committee Handbook


The Planning Manager (Development) then presented the draft Planning Committee Handbook, which incorporated the revised Planning Committee Scheme of Delegation, Guidance on Speaking at Planning Committee and an amended Planning Code of Conduct.  He advised that the Planning Committee would be asked to endorse the proposed scheme of delegation before it was presented to Council for approval.


It was agreed that the draft handbook should be amended to clarify that members of the public attending meetings of the Planning Committee may have to pay to park in the Council House/Civic Suite complex.


The Planning Manager (Development) circulated amended wording to replace the 16th bullet point under heading 12 (Decision Making at Planning Committee), to read


“•  If a final decision cannot be made at the Committee, as a minor change, update, or further information is expected or awaited, but you are satisfied with the planning balance and that you have sufficient information to be content with the principle of the development, then do allow the matter to be delegated to the Head of Development Management to make the final determination (either with or without consultation with the Chairman, Vice Chairman or opposition spokespersons)”.




i.  That the review undertaken by the Improving Planning Performance Working Party and Planning Committee be noted;

ii.  That the options set out in the appendix to these minutes be recommended to Council for adoption;


iii.  That Council be recommended to approve the Planning Committee Handbook (as amended) subject to the Planning Committee being content with the changes to the Scheme of Delegation;


iv.  That the Head of Development Management be authorised to make minor changes to the Planning Committee Handbook in consultation with the Chairman of the Planning Committee, subject to there being no changes made to any part of the Council’s Constitution without the approval of Council following consideration by the Governance Committee.

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