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PARISH COUNCILS AND PLANNING

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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)

asked by (1.7k points)
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2 Answers

+1 vote
I’ll only answer in broad terms but in my experience PC’s have little impact on planning even when they have expensive planning consultants on the payroll

I know of a Parish where I was told £150,000 was spent in a futile attempt to stop an estate being built even though it was clear from the site that it was ripe for development
Basically the money was wasted to prove the PC “ cared “ as they were too afraid to speak the truth
answered by (3.9k points)
+1 vote
Parish & Town Councils only have the statutory right to be consulted about planning applications.  A comment from a Parish Concil carries no more weight than a comment from the general public. Whilst Town/Parish Councils can scrutinise applications to whatever level or detail they like they cannot approve or reject them.  A Planning authority may seek Town/Parish Council participation in the Local Plan formulation or in assigning how Community infrastructure Levy is applied but the PA are not compelled to do so. So Is their a value here in PCs employing their own advocates?  I would say no.
answered by (22.4k points)
The question is Graeme does any non GPC PC have a power to employ a planning consultant at whatever cost to help construct their planning application comments ?  Would S111 cover it  as incidental to their function in commenting on a planning application?  In the case of an application being called in s222 allows them to "make representations".  Would that cover employing a barrister ?   Currently we have a planning appeal which the Planning Authority is opposing yet the PCs have decided they want their own barrister as well.  I am trying to work my way through the minefield of what the relative legislation allows
Good points. As things stand, n practice a town or parish council could hire either without fear of repercussions, as the external auditor could only raise concerns and issues about it. That would be the case even if S111 or S222 could be demonstrated to have been breached. If town or parish councils were subject to precept rise caps, that would be a big obstacle, but the govt seem to have no interest in such a move.
Also I think PC have a right to be informed not consulted ??
The value of the PC giving their comments to planning is two fold. Having local knowledge that the planners may not have considered( history etc) which also has relevance to statements made by the applicant which may be erroneous or down right misleading. Also if an NDP is produced by the parish then it doesn't do any harm in pointing out where the NDP is not being complied  with.
Motorman I don't disagree with any of the points you make . The question is does any non GPC PC have the power to employ any form of expert or legal advice to make its case. In my case I am talking about £100k i.e. equivalent to 60% of the annual precept . I would have thought than any such spend should fit with a definite recognised  power to spend rather than rely on spurious links to maybe powers ?

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