I recently attended a Planning Committee where I had two planning applications under consideration. Each were reserved matters so the outline principles were established. The case offer gave an excellent presentation of each. Indeed it is incredible to see the degree of detail that goes into a committee report these days. I do feel at times the degree of detail is too much and I began to ask myself why.
I am not a development control officer now and it is nearly 20 years ago since I was but I remember at that time, that the committee reports where slim affairs with the essential information provided. Council members would show early interest in the plans and, at times, come to the offices and sit down with the officers to be briefed.
Now every detail is offered, including objections and then retraction of objections. I have begun to wonder if this is in lieu of Councillors bothering to take time to research the applications they are to consider. I can be forgiven for this suspicion when I followed the recent debate on my own planning applications. The first one was for a road scheme where the outline had confirmed it was for a single carriageway. “Why” ,stated one Councillor ” can this not be a dual carriageway?”. Before hearing the short answer he needed to put this concern firmly to bed, he continued with a five minute monologue of what was best for the town. Had he done the most basic of research, he would have known the outline planning permission was for a single carriageway and there was no scope to require a dual carriageway.
The next application was also reserved matters approval which included a community centre. The same Councillor went off with along speech about how the community centre would be inadequate , proffering additional uses that it should perform. The council officer was ,eventually, able to explain how the s 106 specified the nature of the building, the uses it needed to perform. The application was full square with that.
The time wasted at Committees from Councillors who do not take prior time to brief themselves on the issues that they are drawn to is so apparent to me, and also I suspect to their own committee chairperson. So why is not more said about this? I therefore make a plea to be expressed from the committee chairperson to their members…” please try to do your homework before coming to committee.