Members role in planning

Planning
Licensing

What is a Member’s Role in Planning?

The basis of the planning system is the consideration of private proposals against the wider public interests. Much is often at stake in this process and opposing views are often strongly held by those involved. Councillors should take account of those views but they should not favour any person, company group or locality or put themselves in a position where they appear to do so. Councillors who do not feel that they can act in this way should consider whether they are best suited to serving on the Planning Applications Committee. No Member should be appointed to the Planning Applications Committee without having agreed to undertake a period of training in planning procedures as specified by the Council.

How do I know I have invested interest?

The Monitoring Officer will submit a report to Members on the number and types of declarations on an annual basis, to ensure that the Council has the opportunity to consider the suitability of individual Councillors to sit on the Planning Applications Committee. Councillors who have substantial property interests, or other interests which would prevent them from voting on a regular basis, should avoid serving on that Committee.

The guiding rule for Councillors must be that one should not use one’s position to further a private or personal interest rather than the general public interest or give grounds for such suspicion. Such private interests could arise through family, friends, clubs, freemasons, trade unions and voluntary bodies.

What is an example of a situation where an interest ought to be declared?

  • A planning application submitted by a local Golf Club of which a Councillor is a Member
  • An application for development on land adjacent to or in close proximity to a Councillor’s own residence
  • An application lodged by a member of a Councillor’s own family
  • An application for development by a Company for whom a member of a Councillor’s family may work.

Do Officers also have a Code of Conduct for Planning?

Officers who are Chartered Town Planners are guided by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Code of Professional Conduct. All Officers dealing with planning matters must comply.

What is the guidance in terms of Lobbying?

Lobbying is a perfectly proper part of the political process; those who may be affected by a planning decision will often seek to influence it through an approach to their elected Ward Member or a Member of the Planning Applications Committee. That is quite understandable and part of the political/representative process. However, such lobbying can call into question the impartiality and integrity of a Councillor.

Members of the Planning Applications Committee must not express an opinion to a person lobbying, they must make it clear that they will only be in a position to take a decision after having heard all the relevant evidence and arguments at the Committee meeting. Councillors should commit themselves one way or the other before hearing all the argument and evidence. Councillors who are members of the Planning Applications Committee should not participate in lobbying for a particular outcome. There should be no political group meetings prior to the Committee meeting to decide how Councillors should vote.

What channel is there for community involvement?

Officers will offer to convene a meeting to allow potential developers to present their proposals for major developments, in initial draft format to Planning Applications Committee Members, Ward Members, interested local residents, and any relevant statutory consultees or organisations, allowing questions to be asked and feedback to be taken on board by the developers.

The main purpose of these meetings is to allow developers to hear important issues at an early stage that could be addressed as part of the planning application. These meetings are not a substitute for the formal planning process and to ensure that they do not fetter their involvement in subsequent decision-making. Members will be expected to essentially ask questions at these meetings rather than express a view.

Can members of the public speak at meetings?

Opportunities will be given for applicant and objectors and other interested parties, such as Parish Councils, to make presentations to the Planning Applications Committee. In addition to local Ward members and Parish Council representatives, normally only one speaker will be permitted to address the Committee on behalf of the applicant and three on behalf of the objectors. The time allowed for presentation is in the discretion of the Chair of the Committee but should be identical for all parties.

Each speaker will be given the opportunity to speak and then a right to reply following presentation of the officer report. The applicant will have a right of reply after the objectors and the officers will have final comments.

Is there a process for reviewing the work of the Committee?

Councillors involved with planning decision making should visit a sample of implemented planning permissions to assess the quality of the decisions they have made. Such a review should be undertaken at least annually and include examples from a broad range of categories, such as major and minor development, permitted departures from the Development Plan, upheld appeals, listed building works and enforcement cases. Briefing notes should be prepared on each case. Cabinet should formally consider the review and decide whether it gives rise to the need to review any policies or practices.

For full information of the protocol for Councillors and Officers dealing with Planning Matters, please view the Protocol For Councillors and Officers Dealing with Planning Matters document [pdf document].

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Members role in Licensing

1. What is a Members’ Role in Licensing?

The basis of the Licensing system is the consideration of private proposals against wider public interests. Much is often at stake in this process and opposing views are often strongly held by those involved. Councillors should take account of those views but they should not favour any person, company, group or locality or put themselves in a position where they appear to do so. Councillors who do not feel that they can act in this way should consider whether they are best suited to serving on the Licensing Committee.

2. How do I know if I have invested interest?

The Monitoring Officer will submit a report to Members on the number and types of declarations on an annual basis, to ensure that the Council has the opportunity to consider the suitability of individual Councillors to sit on the Licensing Committee. Councillors who have interests which would prevent them from voting on a regular basis should avoid serving on that Committee. The guiding rule for Councillors must be that one should not use one’s position to further a private or personal interest rather than the general public interest or give grounds for such suspicion. Such private interests could arise through family, friends, clubs, freemasons, trade unions and voluntary bodies.

3. What if I am a member of another public/local authority?

A situation may occur where the Councillor carries out a function for another public authority or another local authority which is making an application for a license, or which is making a representation. For example, if a local school is applying for a premises license and the Councillor is on the governing body of the school. It may also occur where the Councillor is dual-hatted and is a member of a Parish Council as well as the Licensing Committee. In such situations the Standards Board has advised that Councillors may wish NOT to avail themselves of the usual exemption afforded by the Model Code of Conduct in these situations as to do so may the Council at risk of being accused bias.

4. Do Officers also have a Code of Conduct for Licensing?

Yes, details can be found in the link in the box at the bottom of this page.

5. What is the guidance in terms of Lobbying?

Lobbying is a perfectly proper part of the political process; those who may be affected by a Licensing decision will often seek to influence it through an approach to their elected Ward Member or a Member of the Licensing Committee. That is quite understandable and part of the political/representative process. However, such lobbying can call into question the impartiality and integrity of a Councillor.

Members of the Licensing Committee must not express an opinion to a person lobbying, they must make it clear that they will only be in a position to take a decision after having heard all the relevant evidence and arguments at the hearing. Councillors should not commit themselves one way or the other before hearing all the arguments and evidence. Councillors who are members of the Licensing Committee should not participate in lobbying for a particular outcome unless they are prepared not to sit on the licensing sub-committee which considers the application.

6.  When is it acceptable to conduct a Site Visit?

Site visits should only be used where the expected benefit is substantial. Examples of situations where the expected benefit would be substantial include:

  • Cases where a plan of the premises and also its surrounding area does not adequately indicate the relationship of the application to neighbouring property
  • Cases where the effect on objectors areas and property cannot be readily discerned from plans and such effect is likely to be substantial
  • Cases where the application is particularly contentious.

A record of the reasons why a site visit is called should be maintained by the Assistant Chief Executive. Site visits must not be used as a forum for debate and should only be used in exceptional circumstances. 

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