Review of the Operation of the Planning Committee
- Meeting of Economic Growth, Environment and Development (Overview & Scrutiny) Committee, Wednesday, 18th September, 2019 6.00 pm (Item 12.)
The Committee received a report setting out a 12 month review of the performance and operation of the revised Planning Committee arrangements. It was reported that changes were made including the reduction to 15 Members on the Committee, the use of the Committee Room rather than the Chamber when lower public attendance is anticipated and three further Members trained to act as replacements if vacancies were to arise.
On the issue of meetings, it was asked if these could be held outside of Frog Lane and across the district as it would make it more accessible and desirable for the public to attend. It was reported that there would be many factors to take into account including costs of hiring venues and potential loss of money if the meetings were to be cancelled which has happened in the past. It was also noted that there could be logistic issues in moving equipment if required along with access to case files.
The location of meetings at Frog Lane was then discussed and the Chairman of the Planning Committee, Councillor Marshall stated that he preferred the Council Chamber as there were no concerns regarding seating for the public that attend. However this was not withstanding that the presentation and audio equipment there needed updating to be more useful for the public attending. The Principle Planning Officer was asked his thoughts on the rooms used to hold Committee meetings and he reported that the Committee Room did make for better discussions but meetings were more formal in the Council Chamber which was better for consideration of larger planning applications.
The number of Committee members on the Planning Committee was considered and it was agreed that 15 Members worked well and was the optimum number. It was also agreed that attendance was important and this should be emphasised to the Committee Members. It was agreed that attendance also applied to planning training. It was asked if there was some merit into considering sharing training opportunities with neighbouring authorities and it was agreed to investigate this further.
The cycle of meetings was discussed and there was some feeling that moving to four weekly had made the agendas congested and applications were being considered quicker than was appropriate. It was reported that the previous three weekly cycle put more pressure on officers as there was no break in producing reports for the next Committee agenda. It was also noted that there was pressure on the Parish Council’s to consider applications within their meeting cycles.
The Cabinet Member agreed to take all comments on board and investigate points raised further.
RESOLVED: (1) That the size of the Planning Committee remain at 15 Members; and
(2) That the layout of the Committee Room be given further consideration to maximise capacity of the public gallery, where possible, so it may continue to be used on occasion, whilst continuing with use of the Council Chamber for the majority of Committees particularly when larger public galleries are anticipated.
(3) That consideration be given to the potential enhancement of the presentation equipment available within the Council Chamber going forward.