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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 11/07/2006
Development Management Committee Issues



APPENDIX A
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

MODERNISING PLANNING SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP
3rd July 2006


Title:
DEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE ISSUES
[Wards Affected: All]


Summary and purpose:

There is a commitment to keep under review issues that arise from the Development Management Committee structure implemented in January 2006. Within the last two months both Members and staff have expressed concern about the lateness of committee meetings. This report seeks to provide a discussion paper about how this issue might be managed.

In addition a concern has been raised by a Member that the public speaking scheme is only triggered by letters of objection and not by letters of support. The SIG is to be asked whether this should be changed.


Environmental implications:

No direct environmental implications.
Social / community implications:

Organising the committee business to take place at a more reasonable time would enhance the participation and involvement of the community.

E-Government implications:

There are no direct e-government implications.

Resource and legal implications:

The are no direct legal implications arising from this report. Resource implications are set out in the report.


Introduction

1. Concern has been expressed about the fact that Development Management Committees are regularly concluding their business around 10.30pm, the last meeting of the Development Management Committee “A” finished at 11.00pm and this is considered to be too late. The main concerns are that both Members and officers begin to suffer fatigue and a number of Members begin to leave the chamber after 10.00pm.

2. The factors that influence the finish time and which could be changed are:-

The length of the agenda
Public Speaking
The discipline of the debate
The organisation of the meeting

Length of the agenda

3. The length of the agenda is affected by

The number of applications in the system
The frequency of the meetings
The operation of the delegation scheme
The referral to committee by Ward Members

4. It was anticipated that the agenda would generally have about 15 items per meeting. No doubt the increase in applications have influenced this to creep up towards 20 during recent meetings. There is no control that can be exercised over the numbers and officers will endeavour to bring applications forward as soon as possible to a meeting.

5. The meetings are held every three weeks and based on feedback from Charnwood Borough Council this was considered to be more manageable than meetings every two weeks. Increasing the frequency of meetings would reduce the numbers of each agenda but may not be key to the problem.

6. At a number of recent meetings it is clear that there are a number of planning applications that members have questioned whether they should be on the agenda and coming to committee. All of these have been associated with the resubmission of applications where variations are being sought to an existing planning permission. Whilst the variations in themselves are relatively small scale in nature and the application is triggered by the current delegation scheme. For example, a development for two dwellings that is subsequently amended by the insertion of dormer windows would require a fresh application for two dwellings. It may be that the delegation scheme could be expanded to include the revision of extant permissions where those matters to be varied would normally fall within delegated powers.

7. On average three applications per committee are referred by Members. Members of the SIG are asked whether this is how they intended.

Public Speaking

8. Public speaking has a significant impact on the first part of the meeting. There are a number of variables that affect the time it takes. It is your officers’ opinion that it is not the time to adjust this scheme, as it appears to be working well with good feedback from the public. There are many variables to the scheme that might affect time taken at the meeting ranging from initial triggers to the time allowed for speakers.

9. However, I should draw to your attention to a concern raised by Councillor Hibbert that public speaking is only triggered by letters of objection and not representations in support. Councillor Hibbert would like this point to be reviewed so that both letters of objection and support would trigger public speaking. It is anticipated that this will not greatly affect the number of applications subject to public speaking, as members will be aware it is rare for development proposals to attract letters of support. The SIG’s views are now sought.


The discipline of the debate

10. This is a matter of self-regulation for Members and the Chairmen not to prolong the debates by repeating previous speakers and keeping comments concise. Equally officers need to be concise in their presentations and responses to questions. It is appreciated that this is a difficult and delicate issue and needs to managed without being accused of gagging or heavy handedness.

The organisation of the meeting

11. Council meetings now start at 7.00pm to accommodate public question time before the meetings. In the case of Development Management Committees this public question time is redundant since they have there own public speaking arrangements. In this context a reversion to an earlier start time might assist an earlier finish. The Committees used to commence at 6.30pm.

12. Some Members have expressed concern that not sufficient time is spent on non public speaking items. Others have expressed no concern on the basis that these items tend to be uncontroversial and straightforward. Combining these two comments it can now be considered whether items in part B of the agenda should be presented formally unless a Member of the Committee requests that it is debated. In the absence of being presented items would be agreed in accordance with the recommendation or any update. Such a scheme is operated at Hart District Council and a block vote on a number of items is used, this does free up time, and allows members to spend more time on items they consider to be more important.

Recommendation

The SIG is asked to consider:-

(i) the issues influencing the late finish of the meetings and consider whether any changes should be explored; and

(ii) comment upon a Members concerns about the public speaking scheme being triggered by letters of objection only and whether it should be also triggered by letters of support.

Background Papers (DoP&D)

There are no background papers as defined as by Section 100–105 of the Local Government Act 1972.


CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: John Anderson Telephone: 01483 523298

E-mail: jaanderson@waverley.gov.uk
Comms/sigs/2006-07/008