NCC is proposing to make changes to how it will manage planning applications, which might mean the removal of Area Committee West.
In response to these proposals, the PC has made the following comments to NCC:
“Mr G Paul, Director – Planning, Economy & Housing, NCC
Dear Mr Paul
We are writing in response to your letter dated 5th February 2015 inviting comments from Town and Parish Councils regarding the review of the Planning Service.
Whilst appreciating many of the difficulties faced by the County Council we believe that the changes proposed weaken the democratic process. We therefore caution against implementing some of the proposals, in particular:
- The reduction to the number of Committees and replacement by a strategic committee
Removing Area Committee West would be extremely detrimental as it is important for local residents to engage with planners and they will only do this if these meetings are accessible. We also note that Northumberland, as the least densely populated county in England, has special features of its own and should not necessarily be compared to the ‘average’ county.
- Movement towards delegated decisions
We believe that if a Parish Council makes a material objection it should on balance trigger the application being considered by Committee. We are however happy to support the development of clear guidelines stipulating the number of objections required before an application goes to committee (which could be higher than at present) and that the objections must be shown to be material objections in planning terms (i.e. not spurious or irrelevant ones).
We ask that these comments are reported to the Scrutiny Committee next week.”