Welsh Councillor voices concern over delegated planning powers

A Welsh Councillor in Powys County Council (PCC) has raised concern over delegated planning powers, indicating that county councillors may have been unaware of the consequences of what they were voting for.

Mynewtown writes:

Powys county councillors may have been unaware of the consequences of what they were voting for when they gave more decision-making power to staff, one councillor has admitted.

The admission comes from chairman of Powys County Council’s Democratic Services Committee, Councillor Elwyn Vaughan and follows continued criticism on how delegated decisions are affecting planning issues.

On 15 January the Democratic Services committee recommended changes to the decision making process be made to the council’s constitution.

This was voted through by councillors at the Full Council meeting on 23 January.

The problem has been highlighted by poultry farm planning applications currently being decided by planning officers rather than committee.

Montgomeryshire Labour Party are the latest to criticise the changes.

They said: “The changes were presented to councillors in a document with over 100 pages.

“Planning applications requiring an environmental impact assessment are significant developments where there is a higher risk to our environment.

“By their nature, they are more likely to require greater scrutiny and public consultation.

“It would seem that with these changes, much of this public scrutiny and the possibility of full local consultation may have been side-lined.”

Cllr Vaughan said: “It’s obvious that there is a lot of disquiet on this issue.

“I think it wasn’t realised at the time how big an effect this would have on the planning process.

“I feel we need to review this issue to ensure transparency.”

Cllr Vaughan said that he had spoken with people and their concerns were twofold.

The lack of information on planning applications happening in their community and that many more decisions were being made by just a planning officer.

“These are genuine concerns, ” said Cllr Vaughan.

The only applications going to committee are:

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

PCC has stressed that the decision taken in January had “followed a democratic process.”

In March, due to coronavirus, the call-in procedure that allows councillors to bring applications to the planning committee was suspended for six months.

In recent weeks the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales and groups of campaigners against chicken farms have highlighted the issues and feel effectively that they are being “shut out” of the planning process.

They have called for a “moratorium” on chicken farm planning application so that the affects these have on the environment can be done.

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