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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 04/12/2007
Proposal for the Introduction of Area Planning Committees



APPENDIX D
Waverley Borough Council

EXECUTIVE - 4TH DECEMBER 2007

Title:
PROPOSAL FOR THE INTRODUCTION OF AREA PLANNING COMMITTEES
[Portfolio Holder for Planning: Cllr B A Ellis]
[Wards Affected: All]

Summary and purpose:

The Council pledged to review the current Development Management Committee system with the aim of improving local Member involvement in decision-making. This report sets out a proposal for the creation of four Area Planning Committees and the retention of a Joint Planning Committee to replace the current system.

Environmental implications:

There are no direct environmental implications.

Social/community implications:

The proposals are designed to give greater community confidence in the planning decision-making.

E-Government implications:

All agendas and minutes for the Area Planning Committees will be available on the Waverley website.

Resource and legal implications:

The proposals generate an additional commitment to ten evening meetings per year over and above the existing arrangements. Whilst this will place additional burdens on staffing resources it is not clear at this stage what the precise demands will be. It is recommended that the new scheme be piloted for nine months with a view to teasing this issue out. In particular it is considered that the significant additional work will fall on the management of the meetings themselves including public speaking, where it is anticipated that staff will have to meet and greet people during the first of the evening meetings and in advance of the start of the second.

There is likely to be a significant increase in the work of managing the public speaking process prior to the meetings to ensure that the public are properly informed about the relevant start time for the meetings.

It is suggested that if additional resources are required as a result of the changes then this should be discussed with the Portfolio Holders for Planning and Resources as those requirements are identified. As an initial estimate, it is likely to need additional resources in Democratic Services of half a post, at an approximate cost of 20,000 in a full year.


Returning to an area-based system increases the risk of local factors distorting the administration of National and Borough wide policies. To avoid such risks attention needs to be given to the numbers of Members on each committee, to further training of Members in the administration of the planning system and the availability of legal advice to Committees when there is a risk of making unreasonable decisions. A review of decisions, particularly those tested on appeal will be important in monitoring decision making.

Proposed Area Planning Committees

1. There would be four Area Planning Committees placed within two broader groupings of an Eastern and Western configuration for the purposes of managing evening meetings. The proposal is therefore to have the following groupings:

Eastern Group (Total: 22 members)

Western Group (Total 24 members)

2. The proposed delegated powers for the new committees are attached at Annexe 1.

3. This gives a total of 46 members involved in planning as opposed to 45 with the old Area Sub-Committees and 44 with the two Development Management Committees. The geographic grouping should ensure equality of workload between the two groups, and an equal mix of urban and rural. If there are insufficient members from each committee area wishing to serve, members from the other committee area in the Group will make up the numbers, although members will not be allowed to serve on both committees, and members from one Group will not be allowed to serve on a Committee in the other Group.

4. The Executive at its last meeting agreed to recommend that Members of the Area Planning Committees should complete training in material planning considerations and enforcement before making decisions on the new Committees.

5. There will be no referral of applications determined at Area Planning Committees to the Joint Planning Committee or to Full Council of any application.

6. Each Group will elect a Chairman and Vice-chairman from the total membership of the group to oversee both committees; the Chairman from one of the group committees and the Vice-chairman from the other, except that if the Western group elect a chairman from Western area, the Vice-chairman must be from among southern members.

7. Groups would meet at four weekly intervals, with at least a two-week gap between their meetings. A proposed timetable of meetings is attached at Annexe 2.

8. It is proposed that the first meeting should commence at 6.00pm to ensure that the second meeting commences at a reasonable time. When the agendas are being prepared, Group chairmen and vice-chairmen will decide on the earliest start time of their second committees to meet, taking into account the level of business for the first committee. The aim is for the second committee meeting to have a target start time of 7.15 p.m., or at the conclusion of the first meeting which is likely to have the fewer items. It would not be possible to bring forward the time of the second meeting before its scheduled start time without possibly compromising public speaking. Chairmen could exercise discretion about the order of the agenda where members have advised that they have difficulty in getting to a meeting starting at 6.00 pm.

9. Committees from within the same Group should combine their site visits on the same day to minimise travel and officer time.

10. For major applications, as determined by the Chief Executive in consultation with the Head of Planning and the chairmen of the two Groups, the four committees will combine to form one Joint Planning Management Committee, as at present.

11. These Groups and constituent committees will meet for 9 months, starting in January 2008, after which a review will be undertaken to see if there is any need for further change. All meetings will be at Godalming, which is the only location with satisfactory facilities for public speaking and presentation of images and plans.

12. Enforcement quarterly reports will be reported to each Committee for the cases in its area.

13. Under the current constitution there is a commitment to consult the Town and Parish Councils with regard to proposed changes to the committee structure. It is intended that they are consulted at the Town and Parishes meeting on 3rd December and any comments received will be reported to the Executive and Council.

Recommendation

The Executive is invited to recommend to the Council that

1. the constitution be changed to create four Area Planning Committees and a Joint Planning Committee, as set out in this report;

2. the new structure be implemented from 1st January 2008 and a review of the system be carried out in September 2008 with a view to making recommendations on any further improvements to the Council;

3. officers monitor the demands of additional resources, as may be required by the changes and raise any significant demands with the Chief Executive and the relevant portfolio holders with a view to resolving any gaps, and the provision for the proposed half post in Democratic Services be included in the draft revenue estimates for 2008/2009; and

4. all members should have completed planning training before taking decisions at the new Committees.


Background Papers (DPD)

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

CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: John Anderson Telephone: 01483 523296
E-mail: jaanderson@waverley.gov.uk
Name: Laura Renaudon Telephone: 01483 523113
E-mail: lrenaudon@waverley.gov.uk



Comms/exec/2007-08/157