Planning applications – The role of the councillor

Planning is an interesting subject and a complex one. Sometimes what seems the obvious right decision to one person is plain madness to someone else.

Planning decisions are made following policy, where ever possible and there is a lot of policy, some national and some local. Sometimes policy competes with each other for precedence. Someone has to make the decision.

Where a decision is straight forward and complies with policy it is often taken by officers, under delegated authority.

Where an application is difficult or contentious or policy conflicts it is passed through to the Delegation Panel.

I can also “Call In” a planning application which sends the application to the Delegation Panel. This panel is made up of the Chairman of the Development Control Committee and his two deputies. They can either send the application back to officers to determine or pass it through to the Development Control Committee for a full decision.

I currently have three planning applications that I have “Called In”.

The Development Control Committee is made up of councillors who have the job of deciding the planning matters. Weight must be given to conflicting policies and ultimately a vote is taken. They must study all the document which can amount to hundreds for one planning application.

Part of my role is to look at all planning applications in my ward. Often I discuss the application with the local Parish Council and the planning authority, West Suffolk Council. My aim is to seek to get the best developments possible being mindful of what local folk want and need.

If I don’t agree with the planning application I can object to it or seek to have a “condition” applied to it. These conditions have to be carried out by the developer as a condition of the planning application being approved. They are enforceable.

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