Friday, 11 May 2018

Residents gagged in planning process changes

South Gloucestershire’s Conservative administration has announced a raft of new restrictions on the rights of residents and local councillors to question and challenge planning applications in their communities. Changes include:
  • Local people will no longer have the right to attend or speak at planning site inspections.
  • The two area development control committees for the East and West of South Gloucestershire are to be replaced by a single Spatial Planning Committee for the whole authority. All strategic developments will be considered by one sub-committee, meeting as and when needed, while all the smaller applications will go to another sub-committee, meeting monthly. This means an end to meetings for the western half of South Glos being held in Thornbury and a loss of local knowledge.
  • Councillors will no longer have the right to “refer” contentious planning decisions to a meeting of the whole Council.
  • There will be restrictions on the type of applications local councillors can refer to committee and they will no longer be able to request a site visit, that will be a decision for the committee itself or the Director.
  • If councillors overturn the officer recommendation, it will have to be referred up to the Spatial Planning Committee to make the actual decision, with only those members who didn’t take the original decision allowed to take part. This is apparently to give them pause to reflect on whether this is really in the public interest.
Despite what the report claims, as opposition councillors we were not consulted on these major changes. Your Focus Team believes that they will tip the balance even further in favour of powerful developers and make it harder for local people to get their voice heard.

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