Councillors demand more of a say in planning process amid radical reform
The Conservatives are calling for councillors to have more of a say in the planning process in Wigan – and they are not alone.
Tory leader Michael Winstanley has demanded that elected members are included in the pre-planning application discussions with developers.
He has called on the ruling Labour group to amend the council’s statement of community involvement which outlines how the community should be consulted, but currently makes no reference to elected representatives.
With the support of five other opposition councillors, including independents, he has called-in the matter for further scrutiny in a rare move by the Tories.
He said: “We are constantly told by this council how important member involvement is. This is their opportunity to demonstrate that by backing this call for elected member involvement.”
It comes as councillors were briefed on the government’s radical reforms of the national planning system aimed at fast-tracking the process for building
Labour councillors criticised the white paper which sets out some proposals for the new streamlined planning system, with one saying it could mean the end of the planning committee and councillors having any input in the process.
Assistant director for growth and housing, Marie Bintley, told the committee on Tuesday that the government is proposing to improve participation in local plans which set out local authority’s long-term vision for an area.
But once a local plan is passed, developments would be automatically accepted, if they comply, and only technical matters would be considered.
She said: “The role of the public and councillors is limited in the sense that you will not have, as you have at the moment, the opportunity to influence an outline application, if you like, the equivalent of that will already be addressed through the automatic permission in principle. So it’s trying to make the system more certain. We’ve not actually seen the detail on what the reform process will look like. With a lot of proposals in the white paper, it’s that detail on the procedure that needs to be seen. But the whole principle is aimed at fast-tracking the process.”
A public consultation on the Planning for the Future white paper is taking place with Wigan Council expected to contribute by the end of the month.
Coun Winstanley encouraged people to give their feedback to the proposals.
He said: “I can see the need for the Government to bring the legislation up-to-date to meet the needs and demands of the 21st century. But by doing that I hope that their will be recognition of community involvement in the process and also the role of local councillors which would include the early part of the planning cycle. It is really important that in the local democratic process that decisions made by cabinet members are subject to thorough scrutiny and this process will ensure that this is the case.”
Wigan’s 2020 Statement of Community Involvement will be discussed at a scrutiny committee meeting which is expected to take place later this month.
A council spokesperson said: “As part of the democratic process, this decision has now been called in and will be put on hold. Scrutiny committee will be given the opportunity to consider the decision and make any recommendations.”
Article originally appeared on Manchester Evening News
The Institute cannot confirm the accuracy of this story or confirm that it presents a balanced view. If you feel this is inaccurate we would welcome your perspective and evidence that this is the case.