This report presents Members with information about the Planning Panels who act as consultees to the planning applications in the non-parished central part of the Council’s area.
Members considered a report which provided information about the planning panels who acted as consultees to the planning applications in the non-parished central part of the Council’s area. Members’ attention was drawn to the report annex which detailed the current guidance that was available to planning panels.
It was noted that the planning panels had no legal status and did not operate by a formal Code of Conduct. Officers stated that they did, however, have a useful role to play in ensuring that, in areas where there was no parish council, there was a voice for local residents. Their comments, along with those of other groups and individual residents, were taken into account when decisions were made.
Members were asked to consider the ethical standards issues which may arise in the context of planning panels and offer such guidance as they considered appropriate.
Members acknowledged that planning panels did play a useful role in the non-parished areas of the city and expressed their appreciation of the work carried out by these volunteers. Members did, however, raise the following concerns:
· The membership of the planning panels was not always clear.
· Agendas and minutes of planning panels were not published.
· The panel meetings were not always open to the public and hence there may be a perception of secrecy. Members noted that the meetings were not always held in public buildings and hence there may be logistical reasons why it would be problematic for the meetings to be open to the community.
· There was the possibility of people volunteering to serve on a planning panel because they had a vested interest, e.g. a builder or developer, although it was acknowledged that they brought relevant skills and expertise.
Members commented that similar issues may also arise as Neighbourhood Plans were being developed.
Members asked about the training that was available to members and clerks of planning panels. They were informed that, at the request of City of York Council, YLCA had agreed to arrange training on planning issues for planning panel members as well as parish councillors. The training was likely to take place in February/March 2017 and further consideration would be given to the funding arrangements. Officers commented that it may be useful to include City of York Council planning officers in the training to provide a local dimension.
Members commented on the importance of ensuring that residents were reassured about the planning processes and suggested that consideration be given to the following:
· Making the work of the planning panels more transparent e.g. ensuring that its membership was known and making public the agendas and minutes of meetings.
· Developing the role of ward committees in ensuring that planning panels were functioning effectively – this could involve the planning panel presenting an annual report to the ward committee.
· Strongly encouraging planning panel members and clerks to take part in the training opportunities that were to be made available.
· Putting in place a simplified version of the Code of Conduct in respect of planning panel members.
Members suggested that it would be useful to seek information from officers who supported the planning panels on the way in which the panels currently operated, and their views on the recommendations that had been put forward.
Resolved: (i) That the report be noted.
(ii) That, at the next meeting, an update report be
presented outlining the feedback that had been received from officers supporting the planning panels.
Reason: To support planning panel members in maintaining high ethical standards when advising the City Council.