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Agenda Item No 7

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Planning Committee: 12th March, 2015

 

Report of the Director of Development Services

 

Introduction of Proposed Code of Conduct for Members and Officers dealing with Planning Matters

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To seek Members’ approval to the proposed Code of Conduct for Members Dealing with Planning Matters

Recommendation

That the Code of Conduct be approved for use at future meetings of the Planning Committee

Reason for the Recommendation

To assist the determination of planning applications by the Planning  Committee and facilitate a fair and consistent planning process

Background

2.         In December 2013, the Welsh Government (WG) published a draft Planning Bill entitled “Positive Planning for a Better Walesâ€. 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 Planning Committees 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 were considered by WG and incorporated into the consultation paper on the draft Planning Bill with the Planning Bill introduced in October 2014.

3.         Members will recall that consideration of the draft Code of Conduct (save in respect of the provisions for public speaking) was referred to Planning Committee from the full Council meeting on 17th December 2014 and deferred by Planning Committee on 15th January 2014 to enable Officers to provide further clarification to Members in respect of certain procedural matters.

4.         As a result of feedback received from Members in a meeting with Officers on 25th February 2014, certain draft amendments to the Code have been considered and an amended draft will be circulated in advance of the meeting.  Draft amendments will be shown by tracked changes.

Relevant Issues and Options

5.         There are elements within the consultation that this Council has already implemented, such as an effective scheme of delegation, customer care initiatives and Member Development. However, a key element that was introduced following the meeting of full Council on 17th December 2014 related to public speaking at Planning Committee. The Council's Corporate Plan included an action for "the development of a protocol for the public to give evidence at Planning Committees" (Action CL6). Following the Planning Committee meeting on 15th January 2015, certain amendments were considered to the original public speaking provisions and these are reflected in the current draft Code of Conduct.

6.         A specific recommendation of the Working Party concerning the Code was to adopt the following:

7.         "If the Planning Committee is minded to refuse or grant an application contrary to Officer recommendation, it should consider whether to defer the application to the next available Planning Committee, before making the final decision. Prior to a substantive motion being voted upon which is contrary to Officer recommendation the following procedural motion will be voted upon - that Planning Committee defer the consideration of the planning application to the next available Planning Committee. If a matter is not deferred which is contrary to Officer recommendation the Chair should consider temporarily adjourning the meeting to afford Officers the opportunity to draft the reasons for refusal for consideration by the Planning Committee. (Paragraph 1.2.10 of the Code refers).â€

8.         The purpose of a deferral in the circumstances detailed in the paragraph above was to allow Members of the Planning Committee to obtain further legal and planning advice on the proposed reasons for acting contrary to the planning officer's recommendation. Accordingly, subject to the Code being adopted by the Planning Committee the Council's Procedure Rules, insofar as they related to Planning Committee, would require to be amended to reflect the above-mentioned procedural motion.

9.         Following a request by Members for clarification, further consultation has taken place in relation to the practical implementation of the requirement for the procedural motion in the circumstances set out in the Code, as well as certain other provisions in the Code. The result of this further consultation is reflected in the proposed amendments to the original Code which will be circulated in advance of the meeting.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

10.      There are no direct implications arising from this report. Resource implications arising from the introduction of third party involvement will be monitored. Any costs will need to be met from within existing budgets, but the changes are likely to result in longer Committee meetings and the need to consider adequate staff cover for Committees to ensure the process runs efficiently.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

11.      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)

12.      The Code of Conduct reflects current good practice and is designed to ensure a fair and consistent planning process.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

14.      The introduction of third party speaking rights in the Planning system will allow equality of opportunity for all involved in the Planning system

Corporate/Service Objectives

15.      The Code of Conduct includes provisions for public speaking. Corporate Plan Action CL6 contains a commitment to “the development of a protocol for the public to give evidence at Planning Committeesâ€

Policy Framework and Budget

16.      Consideration of the draft Code of Conduct is a matter for Planning Committee.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

17.      No Ward Members have been consulted as this is not a ward specific issue, however, the Member Working Party reviewing the new draft Welsh Model Constitution and Members of Planning Committee have closely considered the Code

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

18.      Economy and Environment

Background Papers

Planning Bill 2014.

 

Contact Officer

Marcus Goldsworthy – Operational Manager (Development and Building Control)

Tel. (01446) 704661

 

Officers Consulted

Director of Development Services

Operational Manager (Development and Building Control)

Operational Manager (Legal Services)

Head of Democratic Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas – Director of Development Services

 

 

 

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