Memorandum submitted by Wyre Borough Council (PB 5)
I am aware that the Planning Officers Society and Royal Town Planning Institute have submitted comments in response to the consultation on the Planning Bill 2007-08 introduced on the 27th November 2007. As the Chief Planner at Wyre Borough Council I have been instructed by our Cabinet to make comments upon the Bill. Our comments are brief and we would in principle support the proposals to streamline the Local Development Framework and the introduction of The Community Infrastructure Levy as both proposals will have positive impact and benefits for Authorities, public bodies and the public.
In respect of a separate body to determine major infrastructure proposals we have concerns over the independence and transparency attached to such a body. The current system whilst time consuming is open and transparent and would it not be prudent to set up within the existing Planning Inspectorate a specialist Team that would deal with major infrastructure projects in accordance with a strict pre-determined time framework.
Reducing bureaucracy associated with minor planning applications can be achieved through amendments to the current General Permitted Development Order but the opportunity should be taken to remove interpretation of criteria which currently occurs as a result of the wording within the Order.
In respect of setting up Local Member Review Bodies (LMRB) I am aware that the Planning Officers Society have objected to this but despite this and other objections the LMRB Working Group has been established by CLG and is meeting on 24th January 2008. This Authority strongly opposes the setting up of a LMRB to determine minor planning appeals. The planning process is fair and democratic and the current appeals process operated by the Planning Inspectorate is transparent, open and democratic. Whilst we appreciate the percentage of minor planning applications refused varies we aware that some authorities, despite full compliance with adopted policy, refuse minor planning applications. Our concerns are the setting up of a LMRB within an authority that refuses applications that are fully compliant with policy would not be seen by the public or appellants as an open, independent and transparent body. Here at Wyre we have an excellent Member and Officer working relationship and applications are determined only on material planning grounds. The Planning Inspectorate exist as an independent decision making body and their role should remain unaffected. We would respectfully suggest that training for Members of Planning Committees should be mandatory to ensure decisions are based only on material planning grounds and to ensure correct and proper decisions are reached as a decision making body their actions and decisions could be reviewed regularly by their own Standards Committee.