Discussion of Planning Applications at Parish Council Meetings

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Background: We discussed an application which councillors had viewed on the County Council's planning portal (well, I had. I can't answer for the other councillors). Members of the public were left wondering what was being discussed. We have facilities for projection onto a large screen but this fell into disuse during the tenure of the previous council.

Question: Is it a requirement for the clerk to provide copies of plans (or use the screen) so that both councillors and members of the public can follow what is being discussed? Both can view the planning application online, and the particular application is an item on the published agenda.

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2 Answers

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The Plans (and Planning number e.g (18/0001/Ful) should be identified on the Agenda. This can then be viewed, as stated above, by the Public (and Parish Council) by accessing the Planning Authority website (or direct contact to get documents). However many applications are complex and involve many documents including updates and the Design Statement.
The Parish/Town Council is a consultee: as are the residents. They have the right to send in comments and objections etc. Some applications refer to small changes to properties etc and Council will pass no-comment without further discussion - after being given a very brief outline of the Application. The larger Applications will be debated and Council may give a more fundamental response and agree on a wording (or attendance at the Planning Authority meeting). What they cannot do is to refuse the application.
To help in this our local Council relies on the Clerk (in consultation with the Chair)  to print copies of relevant papers for the Parish meeting to consider. Copies will also be provided to relevant members of the public attending the meeting.
answered by (2.5k points)
I agree.  I take the view that "available on the planning authority website" is not enough in my community, where the parish council notice board is still our main method of communication with up to a third of the population.  Publishing the agenda a few days before the meeting doesn't give sufficient time for people to visit the planning authority in person, so if they don't have internet access, the meeting is the first opportunity they have to view the plans.
I provide several copies of the current and proposed plans for members of the public to view whilst the item is under discussion.  I provide the same for the members of the council who do not use computers.  The other documents are rarely necessary, as long as there is a single copy in the room to answer queries.  None of my three village halls or community centres has wi-fi or projection facilities.
The Parish Council are not empowered to approve or refuse a planning application. They are merely a consultee.  The Local Planning authority should notify those living in the vicinity of the application directly. I don't regard providing paper copies as a bad thing but most Planning authorities are moving to a paperless planning Environment.  Residents can create an  account with the planning authority and get notified about new applications by E mail..   Most local planning authorities make all the associated application documents viewable and downloadable on their planning Public Access.    Some of these documents are huge but are just as important as existing and proposed elevations. An informed comment on a planning application would require examination of all the docs, not just existing and proposed elevations.
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No it is not a requirement for the clerk to provide copies of plans (or use a screen)  - unless the PC's standing orders or a policy indicates otherwise.    

answered by (6.4k points)
That depends upon your interpretation of "and associated meeting papers" in the Transparency Code.  This is an obligation on the smaller authority, so the fact that the planning authority may have published it on their website is irrelevant.
.The associated meeting papers are what the cllrs are provided with at the meeting.  If the Clerk chooses not to include detailed planning application documents to them  then there is no breach of obligation of the transparency code. The Parish Council is merely a consultee and cannot determine planning applications. Residents should make their representations to the Principal authority by default.
The Transparency Code governs the relationship between the parish council and their parishioners.  It requires the parish council to provide the same information to parishioners that it provides to its own members, in order that parishioners may know in advance what the parish council will discuss at each meeting and whether it affects them personally and in order that those who attend a meeting may understand fully the matters under discussion.  Many parish councillors and many parishioners do not have access to the internet and rely on paper copies of all documentation.
Not sure what you are getting at there as you are essentially saying what I said above. If a clerk chooses to make some docs available as print outs for planning apps to members then they have to be included in the agenda papers for the public  .Generally people who don't have Internet access choose not to get it. But there is no obligation to provide planning app docs. Maybe you should consider getting all your members to use the internet and use some of the precept to enable them with tablets etc, most forward thinking principal authorities do anyway.
In a farming community there are many people over the age of 60 who did not complete their basic state education and have spent their adult life working in the fields. Levels of literacy and numeracy may be well below national averages. They have as much right as the rest of the population to participate in the democratic process, either as elected members or as interested observers, but that requires sympathetic consideration. Buying tablets won't get them to use the internet any more than buying them an aeroplane would get them to fly around the globe, even with the support of the most forward thinking council.

The role of the clerk is not to choose to make some docs available. It is to ensure that all necessary information is available in the required format in order that the council may carry out its functions to the best of its ability.
The responsibility of enabling people of all backgrounds, with or without Internet access to participate in the Planning Process lies with the Local Planning Authority, not the Parish Council who have no powers to determine planning applications.  Some planning applications  for housing developments have hundreds of documents that would take an eternity to print.  It is not for the Clerk to decide which to print or which to omit.  See this for example  https://www.developmentmanagement.stockton.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=OZ5EOJPKLAX00

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