I am writing this thread in order to get some things clear in my head. I say this as I have raised this issue before. My PC does not have the general power of competence but hold an Earmarked reserves pot headed Planning Contingency but to date has refused to answer any questions about what it is for and how it will be used except to say it will be used to oppose inappropriate development . The fundamental issue is to my mind what is role of PCs in the Planning process. So starting off at the basics, the government sets house buildings targets and overall planning guidelines. Then planning authorities translate that directive into a local plan into which are integrated neighbourhood plans from Parish Councils. So having set a plan, applications to develop are accepted and go through a defined process. PCs receive a copy of that application for comment, so first question here. Are PCs a statutory consultee as I think I read somewhere that they opt to be included? Having received an application PCs can comment just like everyone else and most applications go through to an officer decision. PC comments are not considered specially and attract the same weight as public objections. Once a decision is made say to approve the PC has no right to appeal. However, in some complicated cases applications can be called in by the Secretary of State to adjudicate. I would like to understand how that decision is made and is there anything any stakeholders can do to cause it to happen ie can evidence be produced and a request made?. Having been called in is the process then delivered by means of a public inquiry or is it all paper based?
Apart from that there exists the right for any developer to appeal a planning refusal and this is decided through a public inquiry. At such inquiries the planning authorities will of course defend their decision and utilise their own experts. But evidence suggests that about 40% of all appeals are successful. This indicates that a degree of interpretation exists within the guidelines . So is their a value here in PCs employing their own advocates?
Having just told my PC that I intend to raise matters with their auditors they have at the death produced a paper which says that they could use the following LGA 1972 powers
S137 to contribute to collective PC legal costs fund (local airport expansion appeal). I argue here that with only a 60% chance of winning this does not align with the legal test of “will bring a direct benefit”
S222 which says Where a local authority considers it expedient for the promotion or protection of the interests of the inhabitants of their area – they may prosecute or defend or appear in any legal proceedings and, in the case of civil proceedings, may institute them in their own name
I know from previous experience that expedient means “suitable and appropriate” so would it be correct spend money under this power for a S of S call in case or at a developer appeal and duplicate the Planning Authority’s efforts. And finally
S111 which supports spend which compliments the PCs “functions”. Now to me a function is something which happens when invoking a power and I can find no specific Planning powers.
I am now struggling to form a view as to whether my PCs are in fact acting ultra vires or are they making various powers fit their expenditure ?. They talk about getting the best outcome at each stage of the process, going through various examinations and consultations and environmental considerations. The problem I have is that this pot is huge and equivalent to about 60% of the entire precept and I am not entirely sure to go back to the beginning of what the permitted role is of PCs in the Planning. process Your comments would be welcomed
Here is some advice I have found The role of Parish Councils and planning applications.pdf (blackburn.gov.uk)