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‘Extra power’ for councillors on planning

Changes to rules which govern the call in procedure for planning applications will give Powys County Councillors “more power” a senior planning chief has said.

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By Elgan Hearn
Local Democracy Reporter

Changes to rules which govern the call in procedure for planning applications will give Powys County Councillors “more power” a senior planning chief has said.

At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Planning, Taxi Licensing and Rights of Way committee on Thursday, June 6 councillors discussed a report suggesting changes that needed to be made to the planning protocol.

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Planning applications can be roughly divided into two categories: those that are decided by planning officers, and those decided by councillors at a meeting of the Planning committee.

One of the ways that an application can land in front of the Planning committee is if the local county councillor has exercised their right in writing to “call in” the application.

This is usually due to the perception that the application is controversial in nature to residents and town or community council who may also ask the county councillor to exercise their right to “call in” the scheme.

Committee solicitor, Rachel Mole said: “The planning protocol is reviewed periodically as and when circumstances arise which has been the case recently.

“What you have before you are proposed amendments mainly to the call in procedure.”

Under the changes the section which stops call in on “re-submitted” planning applications where no substantial changes have been made which was refused permission – will be deleted.

A section will be added to the rules which concerns historic call in requests made by councillors who are now longer members of the council.

The new section says: “Where a councillor requests determination by the Planning committee and at an election is not re-elected, the new councillor for that ward shall be advised of the call-in and can either confirm or withdraw the call-in.”

This will also cover any by-elections that are held during the council term.

Cllr Tom Colbert expressed concern that the changes could cause a danger that applications would be called in front of committee time after time due to “pressure” put on a councillor by their constituents to do so.

Cllr Colbert said: “We (could) keep getting constituents coming to us, and saying can you put this up until we get the right answer.”

“That’s something we maybe need to think about.”

Planning professional lead Peter Morris said: “From my perspective this is a positive move for members as it gives you more power and more ability to call in applications.”

He explained that councillors are notified when new and re-submitted planning applications in their ward are lodged with the council.

Councillors then have 21 days to call it in for a decision by councillors on the Planning committee, but Mr Morris stressed they: “have to provide planning reasons for doing so.”

Mr Morris said: “It simplifies and makes it much clearer.”

Former planning committee chairman Cllr Karl Lewis said: “This has come about from a few anomalies during my time, and it ties off a few loose ends.

“I would be happy to propose that this committee accepts them.”

Cllr Geoff Morgan seconded the proposal which went to a voted and was backed unanimously by councillors.

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