Issue - decisions

Review of the Planning Committee

22/02/2023 - Review of the Planning Committee


That, taking into account the comments and recommendations made by the Planning Committee Review Working Group and the Planning Committee in response to the recommendations of the Planning Committee Peer Review undertaken by the Local Government Association with the Planning Advisory Service, the Council is recommended to agree the following actions:

(1)   That, in response to the LGA/PAS Recommendation R1: (Provide greater certainty in planning process by ensuring decision making conforms with planning policies and material planning considerations acting on behalf of the whole Guildford community and ensuring that there is clear separation between ward level responsibilities and decision-making role on Committee), a regular (monthly) planning training programme, be reinstated via MS Teams, subject to the proviso that whilst the planning training programme would be regular, there might not on all occasions be training every month.

(2)   That, in response to the LGA/PAS Recommendation R2: (Explore ways to rebuild trust and confidence between officers and Members. Consider running an independently facilitated workshop to be held between officers and Members, separate to the Planning Committee meeting, to better understand their roles, issues, and concerns), an Officer/Member Workshop be held following the elections in May 2023.

(3)   That, in response to the LGA/PAS Recommendation R3: (Examine ways for Planning Committee and relevant officers to discuss and learn from appeal decisions to ensure that decisions on planning applications are undertaken, on behalf of the whole Guildford borough community, in a fair, impartial, and transparent way. The present system tagged onto the end of often long Planning Committees is not conducive to creating a learning atmosphere), quarterly appeal review sessions be held via MS Teams and facilitated by the Executive Head of Planning Development, noting that details of Appeal Decisions would continue to be included on Planning Committee agendas.

(4)   That, in response to the LGA/PAS Recommendation R4: (Review Planning Committee reports to see if further explanation can be given on the weight to be afforded to the Local and Neighbourhood Plan policies as well as material planning considerations such as the National Planning Policy Framework), appropriate mechanisms were in place already through which councillors could query policy weight afforded to particular proposals, noting that weight to be afforded to Local and Neighbourhood Plans and other material planning considerations would be covered in the training programme.

(5)   That, in response to the LGA/PAS Recommendation R5: (Ensure planning officers and Committee members are more aware of the impact of what a lack of housing delivery has on the weight given to Local Plan policies and kept appropriately updated on the work of the Housing Delivery Board), the topic of housing delivery be addressed as part of the Planning Committee training programme, which should include an overview of the Land Availability Assessment.

(6)   That, in response to the LGA/PAS Recommendation R6: (Review the opportunity for further guidance in the form of a supplementary planning document to help guide new high quality and sustainable development), in view of the current progress being made with SPDs and DPDs, no further action in response to this recommendation is required.


(7)   That, in response to the LGA/PAS Recommendation R7: (Review the Planning Committee referral system focusing particularly on the Member referral process (7-day procedure) and householder referral system to ensure that applications are not unnecessarily delayed and Planning Committee can focus on the strategically more important applications), the proposed process for Councillor Call-up (referral) to Planning Committee as set out in Appendix 3 to the report submitted to the Executive, be approved.


(8)   That, in response to the LGA/PAS Recommendation R8: (Revisit the site visits protocol with particular emphasis on who attends and on ensuring a consistent approach of officers and conduct of members during the site visit), no changes be made to the current site visit protocol on the basis that councillors were aware of the need to ask for a site visit ahead of time rather than at the meeting itself which was noted to be useful for councillors in assessing the planning merits of a scheme.


(9)   That, in response to the LGA/PAS Recommendation R9: (Review the member overturns process so that alternative motions are raised by Members and advice is provided by officers prior to the officer recommendation vote being made), the proposed procedure for councillors overturning officer recommendations at Committee, set out in Appendix 4 to the report submitted to the Executive, be approved.


(10)   That, in response to the LGA/PAS Recommendation R10: (Undertake bespoke probity in planning and appeals training for members with a neutral facilitator, for example, someone who has direct experience of being a Planning Inspector), the Probity in Planning training be incorporated into the annual training programme.


(11)   That, in response to the LGA/PAS Recommendation R11: (Review public speaking opportunities for Parish councils and special interest groups), the current public speaking arrangements be retained, but for the Chairman to retain the existing discretion to allow additional speaking slots for significant applications.


(12)   That paragraphs (1) to (5), and (10) above be implemented following the Borough Council Elections in May 2023, and paragraphs (7) and (9) above be implemented with immediate effect. 


(13)   That the Executive Head of Planning Development be requested, in consultation with the relevant lead councillor and Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Planning Committee, to undertake a review of the processes and practices referred to above after 12 months’ operation, or sooner if deemed necessary.


To modernise the operation of the Planning Committee and to review and update all associated processes and procedures.

Other options considered and rejected by the Executive:


Details of any conflict of interest declared by the Leader or lead councillors and any dispensation granted: