Agenda and minutes

Special Meeting, Planning Committee - Tuesday, 7th February, 2023 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Millmead House, Millmead, Guildford, Surrey GU2 4BB. View directions

Contact: Sophie Butcher, Democratic Services Officer 


No. Item


Apologies for absence and notification of substitute members

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Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Chris Barrass, Colin Cross and Paul Spooner.  Councillor Deborah Seabrook was in attendance as a substitute for Councillor Chris Barrass.


Election of the Vice-Chairman

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The Chairman reported that Councillor Colin Cross had resigned as Vice-Chairman of the Planning Committee.  Councillor Fiona White expressed her personal thanks to Councillor Cross for all of his help during her time as Chairman.


The Chairman asked the Committee for nominations for Vice-Chairman for which none were received.  The Chairman stated that this item of business would therefore be placed on the next agenda of the Planning Committee meeting on 1 March 2023. 


Local code of conduct - disclosable pecuniary interests

In accordance with the local Code of Conduct, a councillor is required to disclose at the meeting any disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI) that they may have in respect of any matter for consideration on this agenda.  Any councillor with a DPI must not participate in any discussion or vote regarding that matter and they must also withdraw from the meeting immediately before consideration of the matter.


If that DPI has not been registered, you must notify the Monitoring Officer of the details of the DPI within 28 days of the date of the meeting.


Councillors are further invited to disclose any non-pecuniary interest which may be relevant to any matter on this agenda, in the interests of transparency, and to confirm that it will not affect their objectivity in relation to that matter.


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There were no disclosures of interest.



To receive any announcements from the Chairman of the Committee.

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The Committee noted the Chairman’s announcements.


Planning Committee Review - Report and Recommendations of the Working Group pdf icon PDF 129 KB

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The Chairman advised that there was some crossover between this item of business and the next item relating to the review of the probity in planning handbook.  Both items proposed identical changes to be made to the seven-day notice procedure and to the procedure for Councillors wishing to overturn officer recommendations at the Planning Committee.  The Committee agreed to consider those changes as part of this item only, so to prevent any duplication of debate.  The Chairman also explained that she would take the Committee through each of the eleven substantive recommendations which would be voted on separately by the Committee. 


The comments and recommendations of this Committee would be reported to the Executive at its special meeting on 22 February followed by an Extraordinary meeting of the Council on the same date.  The Committee were also asked to note the supplementary late sheets which detailed a proposed amendment to the process for Councillor Call-up which added a provision within the process to allow a councillor to withdraw any request to refer an application to the Committee.  In addition, a flowchart had been produced detailing how the new Call-Up process would work. 


The Executive Head of Planning Development, Gilian Macinnes introduced the item.  The Committee noted that the report had sought its comments on the recommendations of the Planning Committee Review Working Group in advance of its referral to Executive and then full Council.  The Working Group had been set up to consider the LGA Peer Review of the Planning Committee and the eleven recommendations that had already been referred to.  These covered essential training, learning from appeal decisions, increasing planning and policy knowledge and also the Planning Committee referral system, which would remove the 7-day notification procedure and replace it with a front loaded 21 day call up procedure which would engage members early in the process.  This would ensure the most effective and efficient approach to determining planning applications whilst ensuring that members had the opportunity to become involved at the early stages of the planning application journey.  Recommendation 9 which related to the member overturn process sought to ensure, when it was apparent to the Chairman during the debate on a planning application, that members felt that there should be an alternative motion, the Chairman would ask for an alternative motion that focussed on the harm or the benefits of a scheme.  Councillors would then be asked to vote on each of the reasons that related to the identified harm or benefit.  This would give greater strength to the decision of the Committee and make it more robust and defensible.


The Lead Councillor for Planning, Legal and Democratic Services, Councillor Tom Hunt stated that the changes proposed reflected a more transparent and accountable planning process which would assist in reducing the planning application backlog and improve upon the proportion of applications considered within the statutory timeline.   


The Committee was invited to make comments on the following recommendations made by the Working Group:


R1 (initial recommendation of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item PL5


Review of the Probity in Planning Local Code of Practice Handbook pdf icon PDF 106 KB

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The Committee considered a report on the outcome of a review of the Probity in Planning Handbook which had been conducted by the Corporate Governance Task Group.  The Handbook formed part of the Constitution and had last been reviewed in 2019.


The Handbook provided guidance for councillors and officers on their role and conduct in the planning process, including how councillors and officers should manage contact with applicants, developers and objectors or supporters. The purpose of the guidance provided in the document was to ensure that decisions made in the planning process were not biased, were taken openly and transparently, and based only on material planning considerations.


Each part of the Handbook had been carefully reviewed to ensure that the document reflected the law, and current best practice. 


The Committee noted that the Corporate Governance and Standards Committee had considered the report at its meeting on 19 January 2023, and a copy of the draft minute in respect of the matter had been appended to the report.  The various comments and recommendations in respect of the draft revised Handbook which had been suggested by the Corporate Governance and Standards Committee had been highlighted for this Committee’s attention.


In considering the report and the draft revised Handbook, the Committee made the following comments and suggestions:

·        Proposal to add the following sentence to the end of paragraph 5 of Annex 2 – Protocol for informal presentations to councillors relating to development:

A copy of the refusal decision and reasons will also be sent to the portfolio holder(s)/ Lead Councillor(s) for Planning Development and Regeneration.”

·        Concern that portfolio holders wishing to support a planning application in respect of the Council’s own development, or which directly affected the Council’s land or property should not be able to speak as a ward councillor as it would have the effect of outnumbering the speakers objecting to the application.  It was suggested, in these circumstances, that the portfolio holder should register to speak in one of the public speaking slots.  It was noted, however, that allowing non-committee members to speak already skewed the number of speakers speaking for or against an application, so allowing portfolio holders to speak in that capacity made little difference. It was also suggested that the portfolio holder should, in these circumstances and for openness and transparency, declare a corporate interest in the application.

·        Concern that registration of officers’ interests was not as transparent as registration of councillors’ interests.

·        Clarification was sought as to the likelihood of a legal challenge to a planning decision due to a committee member reading a pre-prepared speech, as opposed to making a speech using prepared bullet points (paragraphs 22.3 and 22.4 of the draft revised Handbook).  It was accepted that there would be more of a perception of a councillor being pre-determined by reading a pre-prepared speech, rather than if they were using bullet points as a prompt to cover particular aspects of a planning application.  Any judicial review of a decision in which predetermination was  ...  view the full minutes text for item PL6