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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 27 January, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

 

Third Party Involvement at Planning Committee and Future Working Arrangements of Planning Committee

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To advise Cabinet in relation to progress being made to allow third party involvement at Planning Committee and alterations to the future working arrangements of Planning Committee.

Recommendations

1.         That the work undertaken to update the Protocol for Members and Officers in dealing with Planning and related matters be noted and be referred to the Working Group for the Council Constitution.

2.         That the issues raised in this report be progressed through the Working Group for the Council's Constitution and reported to Council in due course.

3.         That the report be referred to Planning Committee for information purposes.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To ensure fairness, transparency and consistency in the consideration of all planning and related matters and to ensure that planning related issues are adequately addressed in the Council's Constitution.

2.         In order for the Council to adopt an up to date protocol and revised procedures for Planning Committee matters and involvement of third parties.

3.         For information purposes.

Background

2.         Members may be aware that in early December, the Welsh Government (WG) published a draft Planning Bill entitled 'Positive Planning for a Better Wales'.  An important part of the evidence gathering for the Bill was an Independent Advisory Group (IAG) report published in September 2012.  Amongst its many findings, the report recognised the critical role of Planning Committees in the land use planning system and recommended that the workings of Committee be made as efficient and effective as possible.  In response to the IAG report, WG invited the Royal Town Planning Institute in Wales (RTPI Cymru) to draw together expertise to oversee a study into the operation of Planning Committees.  The recommendations have been considered by WG and have been incorporated into the consultation paper into the draft Planning Bill.  There are elements within the consultation that we already implement in this Council, such as an effective scheme of delegation, customer care initiatives and Member training.  A key element that is currently not implemented in this Council relates to third party involvement at Planning Committee.

3.         In addition, and also of relevance is the fact that the Council's Corporate Plan also includes an action for the development of a protocol for the public to give evidence at Planning Committees (action CL6).  Members may be aware that in November 2004 Cabinet resolved that a 'Protocol for Members and Officers in dealing with Planning and related matters' was adopted (Cabinet Minute C1580 refers).  The Cabinet report, minute and protocol are attached at Appendix A.  The protocol includes reference to a host of subject areas involving Members and officers when dealing with planning matters.  It is clear that in light of the Planning Bill and the Corporate Plan, this protocol requires updating.

4.         Furthermore, in June 2013 a report was presented to Council on the New Welsh Model Constitution.  That report apprised Members of the issuing of a new Welsh model constitution and it was resolved to establish a Working Party to draw up a revised constitution for consideration by Council.  That work is underway at present and the work undertaken on updating the protocol for dealing with planning matters will inform the work of that Working Party and will also inform the work on a new constitution, in so far as it relates to Planning Committee procedures.

5.         Accordingly, work to update the Protocol for dealing with Planning and related Members to include third party involvement at Planning Committee and other necessary updates is timely.

Relevant Issues and Options

6.         On the 4th December 2013 the WG published a draft Planning Bill and supporting documents and consultation papers.  A report on the consultation will be presented to Cabinet in advance of the deadline of 26th February 2014.  However, given the content of the Bill, the Council's Corporate Plan and the work underway on a new constitution, it is  both opportune and timely to consider the issue of third party involvement at Planning committee as well as other relevant decision making procedures that require updating and implementation.

7.         An updated Protocol for Members and Officers in dealing with Planning and related matters is in the process of being prepared.

8.         This updated version addresses the following areas:

Third Party Involvement/Public Speaking at Planning Committee

Work is required to implement public speaking rights at Planning Committee.  Work undertaken across Wales highlighted a general acceptance and inclusion of public speaking rights, albeit with inconsistency in design and structure.  The new Welsh Model Constitution also includes a section on Planning committee and third party involvement.  This administration has also made the introduction of third party involvement a commitment and intended it as an action in the Corporate Plan (CL6).  Work to update the protocol and to feed into the Working Party (Minute C147 refers) will need to address a procedure governing such matters as who can speak, arrange for notification to speak, running order, timings, a right of reply and working arrangements.  That work will progress in the next few months.

Decisions Contrary to Recommendations

The protocol already includes arrangements for dealing with decisions that are made contrary to recommendations.  This area will need updating in light of current thinking as included in the consultation documents associated with the Planning Bill.

Site Visits

An updated procedure is also required for the arrangement and undertaking of site visits and will deal with matters including making requests for site visits, the timing of site visits and limiting of third party participation at site visits.

Committee Procedures

There is also a need to revise the protocol in terms of Committee procedures, in particular with regard to the role of local Members, Members who are not Members of the Committee and arrangements for voting.  There is also a need to consider appropriate methods for voting and recording of votes.  Again these are matters that will be included in a revised protocol.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

9.         There will be resource implications with the introduction of changes to the Planning Committee and in particular the inclusion of third party involvement.  This cost will need to be met from within existing budgets, but are likely to result in longer Committees and the need to consider adequate staff cover for Committees where notification to speak has been received.  There may also be a need to consider translation costs.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

10.      Land use planning and decisions made in relation to new developments have clear links with the sustainability and climate change agenda, and range from reducing the need to travel to ensuring energy efficient construction and the building of sustainable communities.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

11.      The updated protocol will reflect current good practice and will be adopted to ensure a fair and consistent planning process.  Adoption and compliance with the protocol would assist in defending complaints or referrals to the Local Government Ombudsman.  The work in updating the protocol will feed into and inform the work of the Working Group established to consider the new Council Constitution (Council Minute C147 refers).

Crime and Disorder Implications

12.      Planning decisions can impact positively on reducing crime and disorder.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

13.      The introduction of third party rights in the Planning System will ensure an equality of opportunity for all involved in the Planning system.  Those wishing to address Planning Committee will be able to do so in Welsh or English.

Corporate/Service Objectives

14.      Corporate Plan action CL6 seeks to introduce public speaking at Planning Committee.

Policy Framework and Budget

15.      This report is a matter for Executive decision.  The terms of reference/membership of Planning Committee are a matter for Council, and as a result the draft protocol will be submitted to Planning Committee and Council for consideration in due course.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

16.      No Ward Members have been consulted as this is not a ward specific issue.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

17.      Economy and Environment.

Background Papers

Protocol for Members and Officers in dealing with Planning and related matters.

Planning Bill 2014

 

Contact Officer

Rob Thomas, Director of Development Services - 01446 704630

 

Officers Consulted

Committee Reports Legal

Committee Reports Finance

Head of Democratic Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas, Director of Development Services

 

 

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