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A Member comes to a planning meeting with a pre-written objection on behalf of the Council...

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How can it be challenged if a Member of the Planning Committee at Parish Council level appears to be dictating the position of Council, and is predisposed as to the position of Council, with regards to a planning application?
asked by (120 points)

3 Answers

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Do you mean the councillor is expressing the view that "this will be turned down / approved at our committee" which (in many cases) would be wrong or is the councillor just extremely organised (more so than other councillors) and able to comment more fluently on the cases there are considering?

All councillors will have had a copy of the agenda and had chance to search the documents including on the district council planning website. Councillors may have formed a view from reading these documents and want to express their view, and it is reasonable that they have made notes.

The councillor(s), can then put forward their case as to why they think the Parish Council should have an opinion one way of the other.

When I go into a meeting, having read the agenda and background notes, I already have a series of pre-written statements / views so that I don't sit there saying "erm / well / what about" or worse going into a meeting blind.

Even the district councillors who ultimately make the planning decision will have read the plans and documentation and have an opinion (in line their Quasi-judicial role) about whether or not to permit a development before the start of a meeting.

However, coming armed with notes does not force the Committee to accept the recommendation.
answered by (6.7k points)
The Member (usually the nominated Speaker at District) has come prepared with an objection speech, detailing points against the development. I would argue this displays a closed mind the subject prior to a discussion.
I am sure that other councillors and member of the public (if entitled to speak) give their equally prepared reasons in favour of the development, it would appear the councillor is simply organised and has clear thoughts, it is perfectly reasonable for the committee to decide not to vote for the councillor's motion.
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Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but ultimately it is the view of the majority of those present and voting that becomes the agreed position of the Parish Council.
answered by (18.5k points)
0 votes

Clearly expressing an intention to vote in a particular way before a meeting (predetermination) is quite different to a councillor making it clear they are willing to listen to all the considerations presented at the committee before deciding on how to vote but have concerns (predisposition).  Elected members should carefully how their conduct/statements prior to a public meeting could reasonably be interpreted by fellow members (but more importantly the communities they serve). 

Speaking as an individual my preparation for planning meetings (first tier small authority) involves a series of written questions / areas of potential concern / legal topic notes / previous decisions / local plan.  I endeavour to avoid closed statements which inadvertently give the impression of a closed mind.   I’d like to think I prepare diligently for meeting whilst been prepared to debate the issues on the night itself in public (whether public opt to attend or not that is their choice). 

In terms of the issue you raised I personally would be quite concerned if any of my fellow members kept submitting lengthy written submissions as a matter of course and they were been despatched to local principal planning authority with little to no alterations in the name of the Council having only been shared on the night of the meeting (particularly if little to no debate on substance took place).   Id be even more alarmed if the documents appeared towards end of any discussion and were simply been passed to a paid council officer as a sort of “this sums up what was discussed send that in” and people in the meeting get to finally finish reading it once it has been submitted online.   

The reform of the planning system in my view is long overdue and continue to question the merit of smaller authorities’ involvement in day to day minutiae and often complex issues have little expertise in (nor should they its often complex stuff which requires specialist officer’s assistance).   In a small village where everybody knows everyone and most of said members in close proximity to development) its certainly harder to avoid accusation (even if unfounded) of bias / pre determination / interest.   The current approach is effectively asking laypeople (with little to no training beyond half a day at local association entirely optional) within small villages / towns to commit council resources to comment when deep down most privately recognise have little to no impact in terms of final outcome.      

“Over my dead body are they building on that land Ill lay down in front of the bulldozer myself.  We will all be voting against it at planning I promise you whenever it appears in whatever shape the developers spin it” Pre-Determined

“I note residents concerns about Outline Planning “XXX-123 OUT”.   Welcome your thoughts (recommend doing it via planning portal so comments preserved publicly).  We are meeting developers and hope to see you all at public consultation.  I do have number of questions that need answering and as you know I have had some long-held concerns about the site” Pre-Disposition

Legislation: Localism Act 2011 (Chapter 6 – Predermination)

answered by (1.1k points)

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