Monday, 18 February 2019

Brent Council to increase signatory threshold for planning petitions to be considered by Planning Committee

The proceedings of Brent Planning Committee have been a concern for some time with residents often feeling that their views on applications are not sufficiently taken into account.

A proposed constitutional change, ostensibly designed to reduce the burden on the Planning Committee, may have the effect of reducing the chance of a hearing for the objections of local residents on particular proposed schemes.

The present situation is that a petition will only considred by the Planning Committee if it has at least 10 signatures. Identical or proforma letters or emails are currently not treated as individual objections but as if they are signatures on a peition. 

The proposal is that the 'petition' will now only be considered by Committee members if the number is 51 rather than 10. Below that level the petition will now be considered by officers not members and only referred to the Planning Committee if the officer decided it was appropriate.  The provision for a planning application to be considred by the Committee if requested by a least 3 councillors would remain in place.

The proposal:

Planning Petitions
.        3.7  Standing Orders contained within the Council Constitution provide that for planning applications and other planning issues, there must be at least 10 signatures before a petition is considered by the Planning Committee. This requirement is repeated in the Planning Committee terms of reference. The position in respect of other petitions is that they are only referred to members if the number of signatures exceeds 51.
.        3.8  It is proposed that the position for petitions relating to planning applications be aligned with that for other petitions. The Planning Committee should deal with the largest and most strategic applications which require a greater level of public scrutiny; rather than smaller scale applications which may only raise local, rather than strategic issues. Big committee agendas increase use of both Councillor time and council resources in terms of preparation, presentations, administration and the general conduct of the Committee meeting; which as things currently stand, is not always the most effective and/or proportionate way of addressing such issues.
.        3.9  Items which are referred to the committee should warrant consideration by the committee. The threshold for planning objections triggering referral to the committee was increased from 3 to 8. Identical or proforma letters or emails are not treated as objections but as if they were signatures on a petition. Requiring only 10 signatures to a petition, which are easier to obtain than separate objections, can result in minor applications being considered by the Committee. This has related to around 3 applications over the past year and there is clearly scope for this to increase.
.        3.10  If this change is agreed, officers would consider petitions with up to and including 50 signatures and if the officer felt it was more appropriate for the Planning Committee to consider the application, the Head of Planning would still have the discretion to refer the matter to the committee. The provision for referral of applications to the committee where requested in accordance with the Constitution by at least 3 councillors will remain in place.

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