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Tweaks to avoid planning conflicts of interest

Created on 04/10/2020 @ 09:31
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By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

Advice about how close a personal relationship between a councillor and family can be before a conflict of interest is perceived, has been broadened.

The discussion came up at a meeting of the Planning, Taxi, Licensing and Rights of Way committee where councillors looked at revisions to the rules that govern their committee.

Head of Democratic Services and Scrutiny manager, Wyn Richards, appeared before the committee at their meeting on Thursday to explain that the protocol needs to be updated every two years.

Mr Richards, said: “The current version came into effect in April 2019, this is slightly ahead of time as a couple of issues have cropped up and it’s a good thing to keep the document live and relevant. We’ve also added a new definition of interests.”

The changes mean that if an application affects the land or property of a councillor’s family it should automatically go in front of the planning committee for a decision.

Cllr Gwilym Williams asked: “How close do you mean by family?

“Do you mean brother, sister, cousins, how far down the line do we go?”

Mr Richards replied: “That’s quite a difficult one because the code of conduct says: ‘with whom you have a close association’.

“Which is spouse, partner, children, down to cousins to no end degree.

“The question I would always look at is how often do you associate with those individuals?”

Mr Richards said that if a councillor met a relative “once in a blue moon at a funeral for example”, that would not be termed a close association.

But meeting every week would be seen as a close personal relationship, and he urged councillors to take a “sensible pragmatic view”.

Mr Richards added that there had been an instance in the past where a third cousin had applied for planning, and it only came to light as the councillor read the report and worked out they were related.

Mr Richards said: “If a member of your close or extended family is putting in an application for your own safety disclose it to the planning department and say that you need to disclose and interest on it.”

The definition of agent has also been clarified to someone at independent and arm’s length after it was found that an applicant was using a family member as their agent.

Other changes include a change of title from “Development Management” to “Planning” after the service was renamed.

The changes were voted through unanimously by the committee, and will come into force on Thursday, October 15.

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