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District council revises planning procedures

Published Wednesday 1 August 2018

The district council has revised its planning procedures to adopt a more efficient approach and bring the council in line with other planning authorities.

At a meeting of Full Council held on 30 July 2018, councillors agreed that, with immediate effect, the size of Harborough District Council’s planning committee will be reduced from 12 to 9 councillors. This is in anticipation of the changes made by the Boundary Commission for England, following public consultation, to reduce the total number of Harborough district councillors at the next election from 37 to 34. The Planning Committee will remain cross party and will consist of 7 conservative councillors and 2 liberal democrat councillors.

This follows the reduction in a number of other Harborough District Council committees in recent years to improve efficiency and reduce the cost of running the council.

For planning applications received after 30 July 2018, the Planning Committee will only consider applications of 25 properties or more – or applications for commercial floor space of 10,000 square metres or more. As is currently the case, any application for which planning consent would be contrary to adopted planning policy will also be decided by the planning committee.

Decisions on all other planning applications will be delegated to the Planning Development Manager – unless they are ‘called-in’ by councillors. This will help speed up the planning process and ensure that planning applications are dealt with more efficiently. It will also allow committee members to focus more fully on larger planning applications. Residents are able to contact their local ward councillor to request a planning decision is ‘called-in’, if there are valid planning reasons for doing so, and the call-in is made within 28 days of the planning application being published as part of the weekly list of applications received.

There will also be no ‘trigger points’ relating to the number of objections received (previously set at 7) for an application to go for decision at committee.

The Public Speaking Policy has also been revised. With effect from the next Planning Committee on 4 September 2018, a maximum of 3 people will be able to speak in favour of a planning application, and a maximum of 3 people will be able to speak against it (or time equivalent if for example supporters outweigh objectors) for up to three minutes per person.  In addition, a representative from the parish or town council, parish meeting, or other body (e.g. Market Harborough Civic Society) will also be able to speak for or against an application, for up to three minutes, if they choose to do so. Ward councillors will also be able to speak for up to five minutes each.

This will help ensure meetings do not over-run and get adjourned and will limit the time the public have to wait to speak.  The previous approach of unlimited speakers had also resulted in an imbalance of representations on planning applications.

These changes were recommended by the Constitutional Review Committee and the Council’s Constitution will be amended to reflect the changes.

Read the full report on the council’s website