Controversial change to planning process postponed after complaints from parish councils

The Advertiser Series: Controversial change to planning process postponed after complaints from parish councils Controversial change to planning process postponed after complaints from parish councils

AN unpopular change to the planning process in Darlington – which critics claimed was only aimed at making council officers’ lives easier – has been shelved.

Darlington Borough Council  had proposed to remove parish councils’ right to see controversial applications on their turf automatically called before the planning committee, rather than being determined behind-closed-doors by officers.

Such has been the opposition to the proposals, that council leader Bill Dixon has suspended the changes to allow for further discussions with parish councils.

Coun Dixon refuted critics’ suggestions that the changes were aimed at making officers’ lives easier, pointing at Government targets to make town halls decide on just ten per cent of planning applications at committee level, with the rest delegated to officials.

He said: “I have written to all parish council chairmen in the borough, telling them that I have suspended the decision, it will not be implemented at this stage and I would like to hear their views.

“What we were proposing was reasonable, but if parishes have got problems with it, then fine.

“I am big enough to say we will take another look at it, suspend implementation and we will come up with a plan B.

“The issue was that if a parish council objects to an application it would automatically go before the planning committee, even if no residents were against it and there was only one parish councillor objecting.

“I went to Hurworth Parish Council earlier this month and told them we would review the decision and I am now happy to suspend it and look again.”

Coun Dixon said council officers currently decide on between 80 and 85 per cent of planning applications, with the rest considered in public by the planning committee.

Councillor Martin Swainston, who represents Hurworth on the borough council, said the changes to the planning process were for officers’ benefit.

He said: “Local democracy is about representing people’s views, not making life easier for council officers.

“It should be about listening to as many people as possible and these plans did not do that.”

Comments (2)

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2:34pm Fri 3 Jan 14

Homshaw1 says...

What's the point of having parish councils if they are not consulted on such issues. I suspect for most applications they would have no objection but it can not be right for an unelected council official to have the only say over such applications and elected Parish Councillors have none whatever
What's the point of having parish councils if they are not consulted on such issues. I suspect for most applications they would have no objection but it can not be right for an unelected council official to have the only say over such applications and elected Parish Councillors have none whatever Homshaw1

2:18pm Sat 4 Jan 14

darloboss says...

all the parish councils do is add another layer of red tape to politics and cost a fortune rejecting on nit picking points most of which if fuelled by protecting the value of their own properties
all the parish councils do is add another layer of red tape to politics and cost a fortune rejecting on nit picking points most of which if fuelled by protecting the value of their own properties darloboss

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