The report of the City Solicitor is enclosed.
The Committee considered the report of the City Solicitor that provided information on the operation and efficacy of the Planning Protocol. The report informed the Committee that mandatory training had taken place in May 2018, following the changes in the Planning and Highways Committee’s membership after the local elections in May 2018, and a mid-year follow-up to that training was being planned, and a further training session, aimed principally at new Members appointed to the Planning and Highways Committee, but open to all Committee Members had taken place on the morning of the meeting held on 30 May 2019.
Members were also informed that since the last consideration of the Planning Protocol, a training session on Section 106 Planning Obligations and Viability had taken place at the end of November 2018 and that further relevant training sessions would be arranged.
The Committee were also informed that a note on the importance of the Protocol and its application to site visits was now part of every Planning and Highways Committee agenda.
The Committee was advised that it continued to be the view of officers that the Protocol was considered to be effective and there continued to be very few occasions when the Protocol had to be referred to, and there are had been no complaints that it had been breached.
The Committee noted that whilst officers considered that the Planning Protocol was effective, it was continually kept under review and officers were of the opinion that the provisions relating to discussions between Members and developers could be improved and clarified. The Committee noted the proposed amendment to the Planning Protocol section headed “Pre and post application discussions” was presented within the report.
Officers further provided a definition of what constituted a pre application meeting in terms of the planning process and commented that the wording of this paragraph would be reviewed and a definition of this type of meeting would be included for clarity within the Protocol following the comments raised by the Committee.
Members welcomed the proposed revision to the Planning Protocol and stated that this should be adopted as soon as practically possible. Officers confirmed a briefing note could be issued setting out the revisions pending a formal change to the Council’s Constitution.
A Member enquired what would happen if a Member were to act as an agent on behalf of a planning matter. The Head of Planning advised the Committee that the Protocol was not designed to prevent a Member from discharging their role in representing their constituents or in their role as an opposition Member, but rather to address inappropriate use of their position to act as agents or influence planning applications. An indication was provided to the Committee of what an ‘agent’ and what a ‘developer’ was in terms of planning and the Head of Planning stated that if there were issues she would address these directly with the Member and where necessary involve the legal officers.
The Head of Planning further commented that the Protocol was very useful for officers to understand the role and remit of Councillors so that if necessary they could challenge any inappropriate attempts to influence a planning application.
A Member commented on the challenge experienced when attending consultation or drop in events and the perceptions of the capacity in which they were attending, i.e. as a local resident or Councillor, with another member commenting that they needed to be mindful of public perceptions at all times.
1. To note the position regarding the operation and efficacy of the Planning Protocol.
2. To endorse the proposed amendments to the Planning Protocol.
3. To recommend that a briefing note is prepared and circulated to all Members to advise of the amended Planning Protocol, pending any formal adoption into the Council’s Constitution.
4. To recommend that officers review the wording of the proposed paragraph in the Protocol relating to pre application meetings and a definition of such meetings to be included.
5. To recommend that guidance be issued to all Members who attend planning related drop in events / consultations in their capacity as a resident compared to attending an event as a Councillor.
6. To recommend that guidance is issued to all Members on their responsibilities when making representations on planning applications that are not within the ward to which they are elected.