Planning applications decided by councillors to be cut by half

Arun Civic Centre, Littlehampton ENGSUS00120130418113852

Arun Civic Centre, Littlehampton ENGSUS00120130418113852

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Changes that will see the number of planning applications decided by councillors cut by more than half were waved through on Wednesday (June 15).

Measures agreed by Arun District Council’s development control committee will see council officers, instead of elected members, decide all future householder applications, regardless of objections from residents, town and parish councils.

No consultation was carried out - with one parish clerk only made aware of the plans when this newspaper contacted them for comment.

The committee was told the changes would improve customer services, improve performance and reduce pressure on council resources, while parishes would be fully briefed on the decision.

Head of development control Nick Antoniou suggested the decision should be referred to full council - but the committee instead decided to enact its right to make the decision itself.

Chairman Jacqui Maconachie said: “When a committee has authority it is given that authority to get on with business and stop delaying it.

“I cannot really see the point in giving something else to council when we have other things they should be making decisions on.”

A report to the committee stated ‘too many small-scale applications’ are considered by members, resulting in meaty agendas which increase officer workload and leave less time for detailed debate.

In the last year, councillors overturned the recommendation of officers in just seven out of 150 cases.

Only three per cent of householder applications were overturned, leading to the changes proposed.

All householder applications would be decided by officers, while a rule that would see plans automatically discussed by councillors if five or more objections were received would be scrapped.

Parish Councils, which can currently call-in controversial items, would have their ability to do so restricted to ‘minor’ and ‘major’ applications.

Officers admitted this was likely to spark objection but noted other authorities had taken similar steps and claimed it would lead to ‘quicker decisions’.