Threat to parish planning influence to be debated today

Arun Civic Centre, Littlehampton ENGSUS00120130418113852
Arun Civic Centre, Littlehampton ENGSUS00120130418113852

Changes to the way planning applications are dealt with which would reduce the say of district and parish councillors have been criticised.

Arun District Council’s development control committee will discuss plans to cut the number of small-scale applications it debated today (Wednesday, June 15).

The measures would see council officers instead of elected councillors decide all householder applications, regardless of objections from residents or parishes.

Felpham district and parish councillor Paul English said there had been ‘little or no consultation’ over the plans.

He said: “A lot of people are very upset about it being delegated to officers. It is removing the first tier of local government. It is grossly wrong to for this to be carried out.

“It’s all part of a savings exercise but it’s got to be in the interests of the residents.”

A report to the committee states ‘too many small-scale applications’ are considered by members, resulting in meaty agendas which increase officer workload and leave less time for detailed debate.

In the last year, councillors overturned the recommendation of officers in just seven out of 150 cases.

Only three per cent of householder applications were overturned, leading to the changes proposed.

All householder applications would be decided by officers, while a rule that would see plans automatically discussed by councillors if five or more objections were received would be scrapped.

Parish councils, which can currently call-in controversial items, would have their ability to do so restricted to ‘minor’ and ‘major’ applications.

Officers admitted this was likely to spark objection but noted other authorities had taken similar steps.

Liberal Democrat leader and Orchard ward councillor Francis Oppler said he was sympathetic to small applications being delegated but said if plans received objections from residents, councillors should have a say.

He added he was ‘less happy’ about the dilution of parish council influence, arguing it was ‘important’ for their opinions to be heard.