Revisions to the Scheme of Delegation (Agenda item 8)
Report by the Executive Director of Place.
Simon Wood, the Director of Planning & Building Control presented the report.
Members were asked to consider the revisions to the delegation scheme in relation to the determination of planning applications.
In 2018, the Council went through a Peer Review of the Planning Committee undertaken by the Local Government Association (LGA) and Planning Advisory Service (PAS). The Action Plan that arose from the Peer Review set out a requirement for the Scheme of Delegation to be reviewed and the suggestion of high, medium and low delegation models.
The main drivers for the review (as set out in Section 1 of the report) related to the transparency of the call-in process, and a review to seek the right balance in terms of officer delegation and Committee consideration.
As part of the common changes which had been included in all options was the adoption of the standardised Councillor call-in form [attached at Appendix 1 of the report]. The introduction of this form, together with operational changes would ensure that officers, included within their committee reports, details of the call-in and its reasoning, in order to fully address the need to improve the transparency of the process.
The introduction of a Chairman’s Panel was another common change identified for all options as highlighted in the report. This Panel would possibly remove the need for some applications to be referred to the Planning Committee. It would also (when used as a consultative body) provide a safety net to ensure that proposals that had the scope to trigger wider issues were sent to the Planning Committee to be dealt with in the most transparent manner, if considered appropriate.
Of the three options (A, B and C), Option A, a high delegation model, would have the best outcome in terms of reducing the size of planning committee agendas and ensuring that only controversial or sensitive matters were dealt with in this manner. Option A would put more pressure on local Councillors to call-in applications within their Wards that ultimately would then have to be considered by the Planning Committee. It was noted that a future workshop would be arranged to discuss these matters.
The Chairman’s Panel, loosely based on a similar scheme in operation at South Holland DC, would not be a planning application decision making body. Its role would be limited to confirming which applications should be heard at the Committee and identifying those that should not.
As a long term Committee Member, Councillor Sharpe mentioned certain applications that, in his opinion, were not worthy of being included on the Planning Agenda. Members were informed that all applications would be considered by the Panel, which would then decide the route the application should take.
The Chairman gave examples of the applications that had been discussed earlier in the meeting that would be eliminated from the agenda in future; however, the responsibility would be on the Ward Member. The Director of Planning & Building Control said that the process of whether the application was delegated or put forward to the Planning Committee was working well in South Holland. He also assured Members that the Overview & Scrutiny Commission could review this revised procedure if necessary.
In response to a concern, the Solicitor advised that nothing concerning the merits or demerits of individual Planning applications should be discussed at Group meetings.
Councillor Duigan asked if the decisions made by the Panel would be made accessible. The Solicitor explained that a record would have to be kept of the decisions made. The Chairman and the Director of Planning & Building Control stated that Democratic Services would keep a record of the decisions.
It was noted that the Panel would have a rolling membership.
Following further discussion Members’ favoured Option A – the high delegation model (see appendix 2 of the report).