Advertiser – Parishes angry over planning plan

Swindon Advertiser today ran the following article about changes to the planning rules and how they impact parish councils:

PARISH councillors claim proposals which would limit their ability to call-in planning applications fly in the face of localism.

Parish councils have been long able to request that Swindon Council’s planning committee considers an application because it raises significant planning issues and/or is controversial.

However, Swindon Council plans to run a three-month trial, from February 1, where Coun Dale Heenan, chairman of the planning committee, and David Potter, the director of planning and transport, would determine whether the parish council’s comments meet these criteria.

They would decide whether the application is decided by elected councillors in the planning committee or whether it is decided by appointed officers. In making this judgment, they would assess significance of impact and the degree of controversy based on the number and content of objections.

Mr Potter drew up the plans after Haydon Wick Parish Council called-in three applications which, according to his report, did not meet the criteria and could have been decided by officers.

Borough councillors can still call-in applications and those deemed as major – such as those at Coate – are automatically considered, but parish councils are against the changes.

Stuart Boyd, chairman of Blunsdon Parish Council, said: “As far as we’re concerned, the existing system works perfectly well. It’s written into the parish charter that the parish councils have with the borough and so what’s being proposed is contrary to that charter, and in our opinion it’s contrary to the movement towards localism.

Neil Burchell, chairman of South Marston Parish Council, said: “My personal point of view is this is a shame because I do think the parish councils know and understand their own environment the best, and hopefully know and understand the thoughts of their parishioners.

“And as a consequence, I would have thought it would still be appropriate for their views being the major driver in reviewing the applications. This goes against localism because it’s taking the power away from communities.

Dr Chris Barry, a former chairman of Chiseldon Parish Council, added: “It does seem to fly in the face of localism.

The planning committee decided on Tuesday to defer a decision on the proposal for consultation.

But some members expressed support for the change, highlighting as an example a planning application for an illuminated sign for the Aldi supermarket, in the Abbey Meads ward, which was called in by Blunsdon Parish Council. The parish council said recently-approved signage at the site was sufficient, and Aldi should be encouraged to use the existing totem sign.

Coun Junab Ali (Lab, Central) said: “They’re wasting officers’ time. The parish council is objecting without any clear reasons, so that’s why I think it’s going to be good to look into this and the process has already started.

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