From: Dennis Scard
MCA Chair Cranborne Avenue
he difficulties of the residents in Northbourne Road (Herald letters, October 5) concerning the way in which there opposition to a planning application was dealt with are not unknown to the Meads Community Association.
On occasion we have not been allowed to speak on recent planning applications in support of local residents who have also objected.
EBC published guidance policy on members of the public speaking at Planning Committee meetings has the heading ‘Your right to speak’.
The first sentence states the following:
‘Members of the public have a right to address meetings of the Borough Council on issues listed on council agendas’.
EBC’s policy on speaking at planning committee meetings is as follows:
‘Objectors will only be allowed to speak where they have already submitted objections in writing, new objections must not be introduced when speaking.
Normally, only one objector is allowed to address the Committee on each application and applications to speak will be registered on a ‘first come, first served basis’.
Anyone who asks to speak after someone else has registered an interest will be put in touch with the first person, or local ward councillor, to enable a spokesperson to be selected.
The committee may allow more than one objector to speak in certain circumstances at the chairs discretion’.
Objectors to planning applications therefore have a very limited right.
The vast majority of planning applications are decided by officers and reported to the committee with only major applications and those where there are a number of objections actually discussed by the planning committee.
An objector is strictly limited to speak for three minutes and having an objector on a first come first served basis may not allow the objector most affected by the application (who was not the first to object) to have their concerns listened to.
Councillors do not normally see the individual objections and rely on a summary from the officers in the written reports.
Whilst on occasions there needs to be a limit on the number of speakers it should be noted that the vast majority of planning committee meetings last less than two hours.
As a result of the MCA not being allowed to address the planning committee we recently supported our Meads councillors in calling for a review so as to ensure that there is a transparent policy of allowing members of the public and bona fide residents associations who are affected by planning applications to be allowed to have a right to address the Planning Committee.
We proposed that the Planning Committee should:
Adopt a formula of relating the number of speakers allowed to the number of objectors.
Allow for recognised conservation/community group speakers to have a right to speak in order to make representations as well as affected residents.
Ensure that Planning Committee agendas are not overloaded and if necessary add additional Planning Committee meetings.
Regretfully this proposal was rejected and under continuing current policy the residents in Northbourne Road are justified in feeling that their concerns have not been heard.