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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 07/12/2004
PROPOSAL FOR DEVELOPMENT CONTROL CONSULTATIVE FORUM[S]



Summary & Purpose
The Borough Council is expecting to receive a number of complex and large planning applications in the near future, East Street probably being the first, but others could follow for Cranleigh Brick and Tile and Tuesley Farm.

The Council recently reviewed its Development Control Charter which specifically promotes the importance of pre-application discussion. This is not only to improve speed of decision making but also to improve the quality of submissions and thereby the ultimate quality of development. On these larger schemes, where matters of subjective judgement and local importance are involved, it will be helpful to all to feed Member comments into the negotiation process.

This report proposes the setting up of a Member Forum to formalise and channel this involvement.

Quality of Life Implications
Natural Resource Use
Pollution Prevention and Control
Biodiversity and Nature
Local Environment
Social Inclusion
Safe Communities
Local Economy
Natural
Resource Use
Pollution
Prevention and Control
Biodiversity
and Nature
Local
Environment
Social
Inclusion
Safe, Healthy
and Active
Communities
Local
Economy
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive


APPENDIX U
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL


EXECUTIVE - 7TH DECEMBER 2004



Title:
PROPOSAL FOR DEVELOPMENT CONTROL CONSULTATIVE FORUM[S]
[Wards Affected: All, but central Farnham wards in the first instance]


Summary and purpose:

The Borough Council is expecting to receive a number of complex and large planning applications in the near future, East Street probably being the first, but others could follow for Cranleigh Brick and Tile and Tuesley Farm.

The Council recently reviewed its Development Control Charter which specifically promotes the importance of pre-application discussion. This is not only to improve speed of decision making but also to improve the quality of submissions and thereby the ultimate quality of development. On these larger schemes, where matters of subjective judgement and local importance are involved, it will be helpful to all to feed Member comments into the negotiation process.

This report proposes the setting up of a Member Forum to formalise and channel this involvement.



Quality of life implications – social, environmental & economic (sustainable development):

Natural Resource Use
Pollution Prevention and Control
Biodiversity and Nature
Local Environment
Social Inclusion
Safe, Healthy and Active Communities
Local Economy
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive

The development control process is a critical mechanism in delivering sustainable development and sustainable communities. Improving pre-application negotiations is an important step in ensuring that the relevant issues are addressed in any subsequent submission and that the quality of development will benefit overall.

E-Government implications:

This proposal would utilise many of the e-planning channels in assisting the negotiation process and then communicating the outputs.

Resource and legal implications:

It is expected that the setting up of a Consultative Forum for one or two proposals would be capable of being supported within existing resources. However, a wider application does raise concerns. Bearing in mind the way that the planning system is moving towards a “front-loaded” system; this may be a catalyst for a wider discussion on how existing resources could be re-focused.

Care would be taken to brief Members and other parties on the need to avoid any appearance of pre-determination of planning decisions. These constraints on the Members would have to be recognised and accepted by other contributors.



Background and Proposal

1. Cambridge City Council [CCC] has been running a Development Control Forum for several years. This is intended to handle controversial applications already within the system. In essence, this provides an opportunity for Members of the Development Control Committee to hear first hand from objectors, the applicant and other interested parties before coming to a decision at a separate meeting. Member comments on what they have heard are also passed back to the applicant to aid negotiations. The Forum has been given a Best Practice Award by the Royal Town Planning Institute [RTPI]. A copy of the explanatory CCC leaflet is available at -http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/planning/reptdocs/development_control_forum.pdf

2. The process is very similar to what this Council did when considering the wide range of community views on the recent David Lloyd application for Monkton Lane Farnham, and, in the distant past, with the Haslemere planning applications for Tesco and the Herons.

3. Adapting these principles, the following is an illustration of how the proposal could be developed for the East Street scheme.

4. Members of the [main] Development Control Committee would meet in Consultative Forum mode, in public, to hear from:-

(a) officers

(b) the applicant and his advisers

(c) Town/Parish Council

(d) County Council

(e) representatives of main objector and supporter group[s]

(f) Farnham Society

(g) Chamber of Commerce

(h) Kent Architecture Centre/CABE

(i) Other stakeholders


First Meeting – would start with a presentation by the applicant on the current masterplan. It would then hear from the other authorities and groups on their views of the scheme so far and what issues need to be addressed. All of these comments would be recorded. Then the Committee Members – in the light of presentations - would consider what issues they feel should be explored by the applicant team and/or officers and consultees. This advice would be recorded and then passed on to the applicant.

Last Meeting – The applicant team would report back on their response to the previous meeting and their revised [updated] proposals. Further comments would then be expected from the other authorities/groups. Then Committee Members would respond with their own views. This would all be recorded and passed on to the applicant for resolution or consideration.

5. Other meetings could be organised as necessary. The decision on when to submit the application will always rest with the applicant, who will need to balance time pressures with the benefits that may flow from continued negotiation.

6. It is important to stress that the role of Members in this Forum is not as decision makers, but as facilitators. Members are likely to require some guidance on this to avoid conflict with the Planning Code.

7. The formality of the process is important to protect the Members’ position in later decision making mode; to provide openness and transparency and to provide applicants with clear advice that helps in the shaping and submission of their application. A consequence of this formality is that the Forum will have to be based on the main Development Control Committee. Other Members will be able to attend and may wish to contribute views, but this would have to be at the discretion of the Chairman. Any resulting comments that are passed on to the applicant would be those of the Committee [Forum] Members.

8. Members may wish to review the operation of the Forum[s] after a year to assess their effectiveness and utility.

9. The resulting process should provide:-

(a) a full open examination of the relevant issues

(b) an opportunity for those with a contribution to input to the scheme

(c) direct and informed feedback to the applicant

(d) an auditable record of the process

(e) an informed Committee membership

(f) an opportunity to resolve technical and policy issues prior to submission of an application

(g) that when an application is submitted, attention can be focused on the main outstanding planning considerations.

10. The concept has been discussed so far with Crest Nicholson [CNS] with the intention of using this as part of the democratic process for the East Street, Farnham development scheme. CNS can see the potential benefits, but are naturally concerned that there is a balance of opinion at the Forum and to ensure that the process is forward looking and constructive. Informal discussions with other potential applicants for major schemes also led to a cautious welcome.

11. As mentioned earlier, this process could have wider application on other sensitive/complex schemes, especially where novel issues are involved. The Cranleigh Brick and Tile case will critically examine the role of “enabling development” in the remediation of contaminated land. The national press interest in the Tuesley Farm case demonstrates that it raises issues of national importance about how modern agriculture can be accommodated in a sensitive landscape. In order to deal with such complex issues, Members and officers need to be as informed as possible. The Consultative Forum process allows the use of external expert contribution alongside more local views. In turn, all the parties should be more aware of other viewpoints and lead to a greater likelihood of reducing conflict.

Conclusion

12. The role of the planning system continues to change and develop. The Government and other stakeholders look to the system to deliver community priorities and other benefits. In recognition of the move to a “front-loaded” process and an increase in the complexity of the issues that need to be considered in major proposals for the Borough, the authority needs to find a vehicle that allows a Member contribution to the negotiation process.

13. The Consultative Forum is put forward as a model that balances Member involvement and the provision of advice to applicants but also provides the necessary safeguards to both the Council and applicants. As with any initiative, it will be important to monitor its operation and carry out a formal review after a period of 12 months.

Consideration by the Development Control Committee

14. At the meeting of the Development Control Committee on 30th November, 2004, members agreed to the establishment of a Development Control Consultative Forum and welcomed the proposed opportunity for involvement in the planning process.

Recommendation

It is recommended that:-

1. a Development Control Consultative Forum be established as set out in this report; and

2. a review of the Forum process be carried out after 12 months of operation.



Background Papers (DoP&D)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.



CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Stephen Thwaites Telephone: 01483 523463

E-mail: sthwaites@waverley.gov.uk


comms/devcontrol/2004-05/045 40759