Planning changes approved despite calls for public consultation
Changes to the planning system have been approved which will see all council planning meetings held in Kingswood.
However, in a concession to those opposed to stopping meetings in Thornbury, the council will be able to choose to hold a meeting in a specific area.
A council spokesman said: “It is planned that these meetings will usually take place in the council offices in Kingswood, but there is a clear commitment that when appropriate, meetings can be held elsewhere, in other parts of the district, based on the matters to be decided. Guidance on the type of circumstances when these arrangements will be used, will be provided as part of a suite of updated advice which will be published before the new arrangements come into effect.”
The changes also mean that members of the public will need to attend committee to make the case for a site visit. However, at this point they will be able to explain the issues which they would like to be considered. The committee will decide whether a visit is required.
If approval is given, members of the public will no longer be able to speak at the site visit or ask questions, this will be up to local ward, town or parish councillors.
Liberal Democrat leader, Claire Young, said: “It changes how the public interacts with the planning system and with no consultation with the public whatsoever.”
At the full cabinet meeting The Liberal Democrat group proposed an amendment - that the public should be consulted on the plans for 12 weeks. It fell due to Conservative opposition.
Dodington Councillor Tony Davis said: “All we are saying is ‘give the public a say.’ You were elected by local residents to represent their interests, not simply to blindly vote the way you are told by your leader. If you vote these changes through without consulting the public, your credibility with residents on planning issues will be out the window for good.”
Under the new system the East and West Development Control committees will end. The most straightforward applications, such as non-controversial home extensions, will go direct to officers.
There will be two committees which will consider applications depending on their size and strategic importance. All the committees will be made up of councillors from all parties.
Cabinet Member for Planning, Transportation and the Strategic Environment, Councillor Colin Hunt, said: “These changes simplify the system. Development proposals will be published, and everyone will be able to see the process they will follow.”
“By making the process more visible and transparent, applicants, residents, Town and Parish Councils and other stakeholders will be able to make better submissions – in favour of, or against a proposal – earlier in the process.”