Greater transparency around council planning call-in process

Posted on Thursday 4 July 2019

New arrangements and an expansion of the criteria for calling in planning applications is expected to go before BCP Council’s Cabinet next week.

The proposed changes mean all elected members in their Ward Councillor role will now be able to call in certain types of householder applications to be considered by the Planning Committee if they feel they meet the criteria of having material planning issues which would affect the wider public interest.

It is also proposed that the call-in period for councillors is extended to 30 days from when the planning application is registered.

Councillor Margaret Phipps, Cabinet portfolio holder for Strategic Planning, said: “I welcome these proposed changes which provide greater powers for elected members to refer applications which are matters of public interest to the Planning Committee to enable a full and frank debate to take place. This is intended to provide further transparency and openness in the decision making of the Planning Authority and instil confidence in how decisions are reached.”

The review of arrangements follows concerns raised about the regulations set out in the Constitution approved by the Shadow Authority in February. It was agreed at the time of adoption that the balance between delegated decisions and number of decisions to be considered by the Committee would need to be examined following the Local elections in May, resulting in the review. The proposal will go before Cabinet before a final recommendation is put to Full Council.

Under existing arrangements householder applications are currently excluded from being able to be called in unless it is an application made by a councillor or senior officer when they automatically go to the Planning Committee. This prompted concerns about the loss of councillor engagement.

As a result of the proposed changes, all elected members will be able to call-in a householder application within 30 days of its registration, in cases where there are planning grounds to do so.

In addition, applications, in which Parish and Town Councils make representations raising material planning concerns will also be determined by the Planning Committee.

Cllr Phipps added: “Householder applications by their nature are most likely to affect their immediate neighbours and are often the only time residents engage with the Planning Service, resulting in both representations to the authority and requests for Ward Member support. Whilst this might result in more applications being considered by the Committee, there is a balance to be had for these matters to be properly discussed openly to ensure there is full transparency behind the decisions being made.”