By Councillor Karen King
According to a House of Commons Briefing paper, published in 2019, ‘figures from MHCLG show that, for the year ending March 2019, 94% of planning applications in England were delegated to officers’.
I believe unelected officers making such decisions is wrong and needs to change. By allowing the electorate to make decisions on major planning applications, and delegating a number of other decisions to planning committees (without advice from council officers), we could reduce the ability of councils to decide what kind of communities we live in, and give that power back to our residents.
The For Britain Movement believes that local referenda should be held for major planning applications. I fully support this policy because I believe that local residents should decide what is built in their area.
This would also solve the problem of councils trying to implement national planning policies that go against the wishes of local people.
Another reason for reducing the input of councils on planning decisions is: ‘The introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework in 2012 greatly reduced the volume of planning guidance, (arguably) making planning officers more reliant on their own judgement when recommending whether an application should be accepted or rejected’ G G Grimwood (2019).
So, what can the public do to have a greater say? At a local level, take a look at the voting record of councillors who sit on planning committees and make a note of those who publicly support planning applications with little local support. If these councillors aren’t backing their residents, then local elections give people the chance to remove them from office.
At a national level, when a government has a planning policy that goes against public interest, again, this problem can be dealt with at the ballot box in national elections. The electorate has the power to change things. They just have to use it.
Reference: Must planning committees follow officers’ advice in reaching decisions? House of Commons briefing paper Number 01030, 30 August 2019. Written by Gabrielle Garton Grimwood.