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Havering Council to introduce second planning committee to deal with large developments

PUBLISHED: 11:00 22 March 2018 | UPDATED: 11:51 22 March 2018

Councillors at the Havering full council meeting in the town hall.

Councillors at the Havering full council meeting in the town hall.

Archant

Havering councillors have decided to create a second planning committee to deal with large scale applications.

The new committee will deal with applications that raise strategic issues, and is likely to deal with the biggest planning applications, although the council has said that the size of the development is not the only factor.

The current planning committee will also remain, and this group of councillors will deal with other applications which do not raise a such a big issue.

The strategic committee will receive presentations in the pre-application stage - which is the stage before it is either proposed or refused by the planning committee.

The changes come as a result of a report that was carried out at the end of last year, and threatened to strip the council of its planning powers and allow central government to determine whether applications should be passed or not.

This report was carried out because of the high number of applications that were refused by the council, but were later given the green light at appeal.

Recommendations included in the report were that: Members should make decisions on borough wide issues rather than ward issues, that the committee needs to operate as an “enabler and facilitator” of development, rather than “controlling or preventing” it, that all committee members should be adequately trained, and that a chief planner should be in place to manage the planning service and to act as a go between with members.

Councillors voted in favour of the new committee at the full council meeting last night (Wednesday, March 31).

However some councillors raised concerns that the new committee could lead to applications being “shoved through” and that it would take the power of the decision making process out of their hands.

A part of the changes to the committee, planning members will receive extra training, and Mr Ramsey said that this will mean they will be “better placed to make decisions.”

Councillor Damian White (Con) cabinet member for planning said that the new report system will cut out the “waffle” from planning applications, and that new applications will be more direct and to the point.

Havering Council leader, Councillor Roger Ramsey (Con) urged members to vote in favour of the changes, in order to provide a “robust” system, that would “bring the planning process in line with best practice.”

He said: “We want to be in line with councils up and down the country”
“This will be a better system than what we have at the moment.”

“It has to be an educated decision”

And he added: “We need extra resources to deal with the big applications coming up.”

Other councillors didn’t agree, including Michael Deon Burton (Ind Res Group) who said that the new committee would “neuter the reason why we are here.”

Councillor David Durant (Ind Res Group) described the report as “draconian” and said “the council are under orders to meet housing targets” and feared that this would mean planning applications could be “shoved through” without due care and consideration, and said that members should vote to defer the decision until after the May elections.

Commenting on the report councillor Ray Morgon, leader of the Residents’ Group said: “The report aims to bring our process up to date. This council is well below where it should be.”

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