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Can a PC prevent persons from asking "awkward" questions, by adopting the Unreasonable Customer Behaviour Policy

0 votes
The council is under pressure due to procedural issues over "lockdown" when a planning application was fast tracked for the applicant who also happened to be chair of the council.
asked by (120 points)

3 Answers

+1 vote
It would need a lot more detail before a helpful answer could be given. Do you mean by " unreasonable customer behaviour policy" vexatious complaint? As far as I know there is no such thing as an "awkward" question to council just a relevant one. A Parish Council does not have any power to fast track a planning application. It's only involvement in planning is as a relevant authority to pass comment or local information to the planning department on matters connected with an application. Normal rules regarding declaration of interest would be required to be followed with anyone on the council.
answered by (3.1k points)
+1 vote
Depending on the exact circumstances, this may come close to a breach of the Nolan Principle of Integrity. Holders of public office:-

"...should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends."

Were other planning applications fast-tracked, or was this the only one? Without knowing the facts, I'm going to stick my neck out here and predict that the motion before Council wasn't to object to the Chairman's planning application. Would I be right?

My inclination would be to refer this informally to the Monitoring Officer for clarification.

This issue of gagging members of the electorate is fraught with danger and should be used as an absolute last resort. Far too many councils think they have the right to silence their critics, simply for asking the questions they'd rather nobody asked, as Mentorman has indicated.
answered by (18.5k points)
0 votes
I can't think of anyway that a planning application can be fast tracked and especially by a Parish Council there is a set proceedure and timescale for the process.

I suppose that if there were valid community objections to the planning application and therefore a Parish Council objection representing the community had been expected but then not submiited, one might be excused for detecting a smell of bad fish and I suppose that might be considered an attempt to fast track the proposal. Where as in reality the Parish Council's objection would really be treated no differently with regard to fast tracking than any other individual member of the public's objection. So if a PC didn't object that wouldn't make any difference regarding hurrying the application through as the alloted and fixed time scale would still have to elapse. It might however make the difference between a delegated powers approval and a Planning Committe approval especially if very few other residents bothered to object and just left it to the Parish Council to do it for them, which would be to say the least a bit foolish.

Where a PC's objection or support might make a difference is a Parish Council's position as a planning consultee representing the community. In other words if the planning proposal is of sufficient public interest they would be expected to submit a for or against written representation which was suffiently all encompassing as is possible and that could carry a little more weight with the Planning Officer, but the alloted time for the planning approval process ticks on regardless at its alloted pace no matter what.

Are you sure you are not getting planning approval by delegated powers confused with planning approval by the Planning Committee of a main council. Over more recent years planning approval by delegated powers has been brought in to speed up planning approval and prevent the smaller applications getting bogged down with bureaucratic procedure. Delegated powers allow the Planning Officer to approve the application very soon after the set period of public noitification has expired when all public and consultee comments have been received and considered. If there is not a high number of public objections and the official consultees (other counil officers, drainage, highways etc) do not have objections the planning officer can approve the application there and then.

On the other hand if there are a sufficiently high number of public objections and or serious objections from any of the official consultees the decision will normally be passed to the planning commitee of the main council of Councillors and depending on the time slots available this could slow the the whole thing down months waiting for the application to be heard at the planning committee. This was primarilly why approval by delegated powers was introduced and the vast majority of small planning application from a private individual are increasngly being approved this way so I suspect your fast tracked approval may have just been a delegated powers approval.
answered by (430 points)
edited by
A resident could have lobbied their District Councillor and ask for the application to be brought before the DC planning committee, and even presented their objection direct to the committee. (Not sure what your DC arrangement are at this strange times, so may have nor been possible).
Indeed, was a member of the Parish Council also a District Councillor?
I completely agree, as a Borough Councillor I recently “ called in “ an application that looked like it was going to be agreed and the application was then withdrawn
In my experience Parish Councils have little or no influence over planning applications
So if there are objections about planning permission go straight to your Borough Councillor
One important place that a PC can add information to the planners is in the case of the council's Neighbourhood Development Plan. As the specifications in the NDP are enshrined in Planning law on completion it is essential that both Councillors and members of the public base any support or objections on the policies defined in the NDP
In theory the NDP is part of the District plan, except that the NDP can be over ruled if the NDP is deemed out of date, compared with the district plan. (2 years comes to mind?). So its vitally important to keep the NDP fresh.
Assuming that a community has an NDP which I would guesstimate being a good bit less than 50/50 and even if they did have an NDP it may only influence the decision and not the planning process time scale in relation to fast tracking..

My own (admittedly rather cynical) view of NDP's is that they just give a community involved a disproportionate amount of work in return for a warm feeling that they have had some significant influence on a development while in reality all they have done is identify a few i's and t's to cross that will ease the development to progress in more or less exactly the way that a borough council and the developer had always intended it would..

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