Proposed changes to the planning call-in protocol for Councillors
Recently, I was sent an email asking for my views on the proposed changes to the protocol that is used for a Councillor to call-in to committee certain types of planning application. I had until the mid-September to reply, but I thought I might as well do it sooner than later.
I am certainly glad I did, as the changes are far-reaching. Currently, the protocol is if the Councillor disagrees with the application, it goes will go to the next planning committee. This I feel has worked very well, and most Councillors will use this function when there are planning reasons to do so. It gives the planning process some democratic oversight, which in turn allows for public confidence in the system.
Now, with the new proposed protocol, this could change. And a change no for the better either! Granted a Councillor still has the ability to call in certain applications like those classed as major and minor:
- New dwellings
- Offices / research and development / light industry
- General industry / storage / warehousing
- Retail distribution and servicing
- Gypsy and Traveller pitches
- All other large scale major developments
- All other small scale major developments
- All other minor developments
At face value, it still looks like there is still a fair amount of applications that can be brought to the planning committee. However, it is those that have been removed from the call-in procedure that has cause for concern. Furthermore, it could further undermine the public’s confidence in the planning process. Those types of applications that are proposed to be removed from call-in are:
- Minerals Processing (ie ancillary mineral operations defined under the GPDO)
- Change of use (no significant building or engineering work involved)
- Householder developments – Included in householder developments are extensions, conservatories, loft conversions, dormer windows, alterations, garages, car ports or outbuildings, swimming pools, walls, fences, domestic vehicular accesses, including footway crossovers, porches and satellite dishes.
- Listed building consents to alter / extend
- Listed building consents to demolish
- Conservation area consents
- Certificates of lawful developments
- Notifications (where no planning application is required)
- Discharge of planning conditions
- Non-material amendments
- Works to trees in a conservation area
- Works to trees covered by a Tree Preservation Order
You might think it is much about nothing, but I will disagree. As in my experience, anyone of these types of applications can be controversial as placing 100 homes in a hamlet. I see no point in these types being removed from the protocol because as long as the rules on call-in are followed with proper planning reasons like – Highway safety and traffic levels; design, appearance and layout; flood risk; effect on the level of daylight and privacy of existing property; planning case law and previous decisions; the planning history of a site: there should be no reasons for their removal.
Currently, nearly 95% of all applications are dealt with by delegated powers and with this change could be even more dealt with this way. Where does that leave democracy in the planning process? You do not have to answer that one, because we all know the answer.