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Planning lacks transparency claim

Created on 23/05/2020 @ 10:33
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By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

Changes which gave planning staff the permission to decide applications using delegated powers have come under fire from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW).

In January, councillors agreed a raft of changes to the Powys County Council (PCC) constitution which gave staff across the authority more decision making powers.

This included the planning services, where changes were made that meant fewer applications qualify to go in front of the planning committee for a decision by councillors only:

·      major applications made by PCC or affecting their property

·      applications submitted by a councillor or staff

·      departures from the development plan

·      applications referred to the committee by a senior planning officer are decided by councillors on the committee.

Due to Coronavirus in March, the call-in procedure, which enables councillors to bring applications to the planning committee, was suspended for six months.

And for the last year, third party responses to applications have not been uploaded to the council’s online planning portal.

Dr Christine Hugh-Jones, Chair of one Powys CPRW branch, said the approval of a 200,000-bird chicken farm near Kerry by planning officers highlights the problems.

They believe this should have been decided by committee as a “major development”.

Dr Hugh-Jones said: “They can maintain it was ok to determine a 200,000 broiler unit under delegated powers.

“There is now no particular size, class or degree of public interest which decides which applications go to the planning committee. Third party representations are no longer available on the web-site.

“No-one will know what date delegated decisions will be made. Planning committee members have also been advised not to read any letter about a planning application. The Powys public has been effectively shut out.”

A spokesman for PCC said: “Some applications have to be taken by the planning committee under the council’s constitution, for example major applications by the county council or those by councillors.

“The January decision was taken by full council and followed a democratic process.”

The spokesman added that “it is hoped” a meeting of the planning committee will take place online in June.

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