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0 votes
At our last parish zoom meeting a planning application was up for discussion, one of the councillors had sent a personal objection in online. She was told she had to declare an interest and leave the meeting whilst this was discussed. Surely if we all send personal objections in then no one can discuss this application as a parish councillor. Can someone calrify this for me please
by (120 points)

4 Answers

0 votes
Having an opinion on something is not the same as having an interest in it. As you rightly say, if almost all of you had previously responded in a personal capacity, the council would be unable to fulfil its obligation as a statutory consultee.
by (53.3k points)
N.b. The situation would be different if the proposal had a direct impact upon the councillor who had objected (i.e. close proximity to their own property etc).
Many thanks for your reply. That’s very reassuring to know
0 votes
This is one where councillors should fall back on the integrity that is expected of them. It would be prudent for a councillor who could be identified as such not to make a public declaration on an application until after the council had deliberated and passed on their observations to the planners. They would then be free from any criticism such as is raised in this question. Even then entering onto their support/objection to planners it again would be prudent to identify that it is their opinion and not that of the council upon which they serve.
by (26.9k points)
Thank you for taking time to comment, it is appreciated
+1 vote

Simply objecting does not automatically amount to "an interest", and in any case it is necessary to specify the type of interest that is being exercised  There is no need to leave the room if the cllr concerned has a personal interest and the cllr can still vote too.  A personal interest is one where the well-being, or financial position of you, members of your family, or people with whom you have a close association is likely to be affected by the business of the meeting more than it would affect most people in the area, or any that has already been officially registered by the cllr.  If the cllr has a prejudicial interest, then they should leave the room and not participate in a vote.  A prejudicial interest is one where (1) The matter being discussed affects your financial position or that of any person with whom you have a personal interest. (2) Where a member of the public who knows the relevant facts would reasonably think your personal interest is so significant that it may prejudice your judgement.

by (35.4k points)
Thank you for taking time to comment , I appreciate the clarity of your reply
0 votes
Any councillor, or any member of the public, is perfectly entitled to express an opinion on a planning application whether that be before or after a parish / town or county consideration of the application.

Making a public statement of personal opinion is in no way inappropriate.

This is called "predisposition."  It is a state of mind which is held at the time the comment is made.  It is important to differential between "predisposition" and "predetermination."  Predisposition is 'todays' way of looking at it.  Tomorrow may bring different thoughts or information to bear which could change the existing thoughts.

If the comment stated - there is nothing that would change my mind - that would be predetermination and demonstrate that the commenter was 'fixed' in their opinion.

It is perfectly reasonable to have an opinion 'today' - which is publicly stated - but could be changed by reasoned argument 'tomorrow' - at a council consideration of the application for example.

So to answer the question - it would depend upon the content of the public comment.  Predisposition is perfectly reasonable, predetermination isn't.
by (6.4k points)
The extract below is taken from the LGA's 2017 "A councillor’s workbook on planning" and provides definitive guidance on predetermination v predisposition.

There is nothing to stop a councillor having an opinion and expressing it - it would be bizarre and unreasonable not to - so long as they are open to new / alternative points of view.  Don't be afraid to change your mind....

Bias, predisposition and predetermination

Pre-determination is where a councillor has a “closed mind” i.e. the mind is made up before having the opportunity to hear or consider all the relevant matters at committee. This could leave the committees decision susceptible to challenge by a judicial review. If a councillor has predetermined their position, they should withdraw from consideration or decision making for that matter. This would apply to any member who wanted to speak for or against a proposal as a campaigner or as an advocate speaking on behalf of constituents
Predisposition however reflects the common law position that a councillor may be predisposed – ie have an opinion - on a matter before it comes to committee, provided they remain open to listening to all the arguments presented at the meeting and the possibility of changing their mind as a result.
The Localism Act 2011 (S25) defined this further by indicating that a councillor should not be regarded as having a closed mind simply because they previously said or did something that directly or indirectly indicated the view that they might take in relation to a particular matter.

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