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0 votes
The local Parish Council submitted their views to a planning application which were uploaded on to the Planning Portal

However, there was no public meeting (there was no "closed meeting" recorded) - there are no minutes arising from the "discussion" and the Planning Application comments were uploaded to the Planning Portal

One month AFTER the the PC submitted their comments, they have now put it on their Agenda - after the closing date for comments for the Planning Department!

I have asked for some sort of explanation - but have received a reply that says "No Comment"
by (120 points)

5 Answers

0 votes
Without further information it's difficult to comment but some parish councils, particularly those who only meet once every two months or quarterly, delegate authority to respond to planning applications to their clerk as the window for comment on an application is just three weeks so the period may have closed before the next meeting.  Whilst not necessarily recommended practice, some clerks would seek an informal view from councillors before submitting a response and then the response is ratified at the next available meeting.   
Of course, parish council comments carry no more weight than comments by a member of the public so if you have an interest (positive or negative) in any application, you should ensure your views are included in the planning authority's deliberations by commenting yourself.
by (17.2k points)
0 votes

I find this an interesting and multi dimensional question…

It would be useful to know where / who the OP is in relation to the question.

Are you the planning applicant, a member of the public or a parish councillor?  

The reason for asking is that there are distinct nuances for each category and to provide as comprehensive an answer as possible, it will be necessary to consider them all in turn.

Would you be prepared to post the planning application number and the LA name so that we can review the source documents and consultee submissions?  They are open source already.  That would be useful - but not essential.

“The local Parish Council submitted their views”  

How is this actually possible?  

 - It is possible that the clerk has a delegation to submit a comment on behalf of the PC.  Possible but inappropriate.

 - It is also possible that the clerk (or a Cllr) arranged a ‘round-robin’ of emails to gather Cllr opinion on the application and then drafted a response which was then circulated for agreement before being submitted.  Possible but inappropriate. 

 - It is also possible that an individual Cllr or the clerk has submitted a comment from the PC which is actually NOT from the PC but from an individual.  Possible but inappropriate.

Of note - the planning consultee process generally facilitates the person submitting the comment to declare whether they are a private individual, a parish councillor or ‘the’ parish council (ie, the formal response of the PC.)

Either of those above options are ‘possible’ - none are ‘appropriate.’

The first is not appropriate because it is the role of Cllrs to consider the electorate in forming their opinion on any given matter which is then subjected to a vote.  This process should (unless exempt - not applicable for a planning application) be conducted at a properly notified and convened open public meeting where any interested party may make a submission.  How can Cllrs consider public opinion if there is no public meeting?

So - how can a PC form a democratic policy position if there was no open meeting, no opportunity for public input, no opportunity for Cllrs to consider public input prior to the policy position being formulated.

IF the timings of PC meetings don’t allow for the submission in line with the planning case officer deadline, then the PC should make no comment.  There is no obligation to submit a corporate comment and if the process to arrive at a corporate comment is deficient, then it naturally follows that that comment is subject to challenge.

If the planning application is of such gravity as to REQUIRE a PC comment - convene an extraordinary PC meeting to deal with it (not appropriate for Mrs Miggins side porch or rear extension, but would be appropriate for a major development) 

Does a PC comment make a difference in a planning officer’s consideration of the case.  There is a statement below which affirms that:

“…parish council comments carry no more weight than comments by a member of the public…”

This is incorrect.

A planning case officer ought to consider all comments submitted - public, PC, other consultees and arrive at a decision based upon that consideration.  

The key difference with a PC submission is that if the case officer arrives at a conclusion which is counter to the PC recommendation, then the 5 day protocol is initiated whereby the PC has to either, agree with the case officer and change their previous position, or agree to disagree, or submit qualifying further comments which support maintaining the PC position and potentially engage the ward Cllr for a ‘call-in’ to the LPA planning committee.

So it is quite wrong to imply that PC consultee comments have no more or less weight than public comments.  It is quite understandable that it might be ‘thought’ that PC comments are the same as any other comment since they are usually based upon emotion, lack of knowledge and absence of awareness of the planning process.   Hence they are often empty, misguided, meaningless and disregarded - but that is NOT to say they have no relevance or influence because they DO.  It is just so often bad influence.  

The reference below to PCs being unable to meet in line with planning application deadlines is also somewhat misleading but with elements of credibility.

It may be that PCs do not meet with sufficient frequency to achieve deadlines for planning application submissions.  If that is the case it naturally follows that NO SUBMISSION should be the default rather than one which is open to challenge and potential reclaim for damages.  This comment below also seems to lack the awareness that, whilst planning case officers will notify a deadline for all consultee and neighbour / public comments, it is also true that any comment submitted prior to the determination deadline will be included in the consideration of the case so whilst a deadline is published, it is not the case that it must be adhered to rigidly.  It might be wise for a PC that is not meeting with sufficient frequency to achieve routine business to reexamine their meeting schedule - or adopt a policy of ‘no comment’ for all planning applications.  Again, it would be inappropriate for a PC to comment on some, but not on others (based on nothing other than a meeting schedule) because that will infer advantage / disadvantage on successive planning applicants.

If the OP is the planning applicant in this question, and it can be shown, or reasonably expected that the PC input has influenced the case officer decision, and the decision is damaging (costs, time, deprivation of opportunity etc) to the applicant, and if the planning decision is refusal, the maladministration stepping stones to a PINS appeal are lined up. 

It would be interesting to know more about who the OP is in relation to the question.

by (17.4k points)
Uploading a range of parish council policies referring does not provide me with the statutory evidence that my unitary authority are acting illegally in never (in my 25 years involvement in this sector) putting this into effect.
And whilst on the subject, my comments and that of the council I currently serve, are not "based upon emotion, lack of knowledge and absence of awareness of the planning process"!
25 years....  That's a lot of "experience."

Of course there's a fine line between experience and habits.  And then there is a fine line between habits and bad habits.   And bad habits are often a direct barrier improvement.
The perpetuation of bad habits is often what actually manifests when an over reliance upon "experience" suppresses the will or ability to embrace innovation.
There is no suggestion in anything I posted that the ABSENCE of a 5 day protocol is illegal - to use your words.
The inference from your previous comment that - because you haven't seen it it cannot exist - and the later reliance upon your "25 years experience" to question the legality of the protocol entirely contradicts your own assertion that "...you only wish it were the case..."

Well, here's the thing, take some of that 25 years of "experience" and approach your LPA with the suggestion that they might like to implement a system which [you wish was the case] might be good practice as illustrated by other LPAs.
It doesn't have to be defined by legality / illegality it just has to be good practice and not specifically counter to existing legislation.  I'm sure it would be called innovation, forward thinking, good practice - that sort of thing, you know?
That would be putting 25 years of "experience" to good use.  And while you are talking to your own LPA, it might prove useful to have a discussion about the relative value / weight of PC consultee contributions in relation to general public comments.
Just as a further illustration of the dangers of an over reliance upon so-called "experience," the examples of 5 day protocol provided above are predominantly Cornwall with a sprinkling of Devon (thanks Google.)

Of the 333 councils in England, 58 are unitary and Cornwall Council is the largest of the 58.  With around 5000 staff it services a population of over 550,000 residents within an area covering 3,500km2, predominantly rural with 480km of coastline and over 100,000 planning applications across the past 8 years.

If we were playing "experience" top trumps I think I'd have that hand....
0 votes
The Parish Council are included by the planners as "statutory consultees" along with quite a few other bodies. This does not mean they are required to make comments ( or not) on panning matters they are informed on. There is a time frame give by the planners to submit comments and if a PC cannot meet the deadline then either an extension sought or a standard "no comment" made if the PC cannot meet within this time frame. There is no requirement for the PC to consult with the electorate though there should always a need to ascertain the impact of the planning application on the community the represent. It would be difficult to avoid criticism or censure from the community on an application for a housing estate and giving a "no comment".

A stated the PC's comment is only as good as an individual comment lodged with the planners so the answer is if you feel the pc is not performing it's duties then make sure you do. Always a good idea to go online and log in for notifications by email from the planners when items come to them for your parish that way you won't miss any.
by (25.6k points)
My understanding was that PCs are not statutory consultees in Planning matters and that the only legal requirement was that they "be informed" of applications
Sorry I am wrong there.  The Planning Authority as I understand it has a requirement just to inform PCs of applications (as a Statutory Consultee)  but the fact remains that officially any comment made attracts no more weight than any individuals comments .  Be useful to get an exact form of words on this subject as many PCs are now stopping commenting on individual applications
0 votes
A point of detail here. You are erroneously referring to your Principal Authorities Public Access system as the "Planning Portal"  . The Planning portal is a provision to submit planning application documents in Electronic format.   See https://www.planningportal.co.uk/
by (34.6k points)
0 votes
Who did you ask for the explanation?  The Clerk?  Is it possible the Parish Council have a planning committee and it was their comments that were uploaded?
by (34.6k points)

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