A council debate on using either ‘and’ or ‘or’ in new planning rule changes ended in a compromise of ‘and/or’ being agreed.
Arun District Council were asked to decide on what occasions planning applications would be referred to the Development Control Committee instead of being dealt with by officers.
The proposed new rules would have meant ward members had to submit a request to both the committee chairman and vice-chairman setting out why a referral should be made on sound planning grounds, and explaining why an officer level decision is insufficient.
But after a long debate on Wednesday (November 8) councillors agreed to simplify the wording with requests sent to the chairman and/or vice-chairman.
This was after the original wording was described as a ‘form of censorship’ and ‘whittling away the power of back benchers’.
The new clause reads: “Any household application where the ward member has submitted a written request to the chairman and/or vice-chairman of the Development Control Committee before the end of the statutory consultation period shall be referred to the Development Control Committee where it is on sound planning grounds.”
Ricky Bower (Con, East Preston), chairman of the committee, said: “The report that came before the committee did suggest and/or which in itself does not make sense. It’s either one or the other.
“The important thing was to ensure that there was some clarity in what was being proposed which is why committee members agreed the word ‘and’ should be used rather than ‘and/or’.
“Clarity is important for those members who have not been involved in planning matters before.”
But Paul English (Con, Felpham East) called the wording ‘another form of censorship of councillors’, while James Walsh (LDem, Beach) argued the changes were ‘stitching up’ elected members, adding: “Slowly, slowly back benchers’ powers on this council are being whittled away and we need to guard carefully against that.”
Graham Tyler (Con, Rustington East) proposed a short adjournment to allow members to consult on revised wording, which was then agreed.
Trevor Bence Con, Aldwick East), cabinet member for residential services, called the amended clause ‘proper common sense’, but Cllr Bower said he was still ‘hung up’ on the use of and/or as he suggested it ‘confuses matters’.
However Phil Hitchins (Con, Aldwick West), vice-chairman of the committee, said: “I do not see this as a big problem. I think it’s a sensible way forward.
“It’s not what was initially agreed by planning DC but that virtually says it all in as many words.”
He explained that any email requests copied into both himself and Cllr Bower would ensure that they were dealt with, adding: “If one is on a cruise it gets done.”