The number of councillors on Caerphilly County Borough Council’s planning committee will be reduced, while decisions made under delegated powers will be revised under changes approved by the council.
Changes approved at a full council meeting on Tuesday (April 13) aim to create “a more efficient, output driven service” in determining planning applications.
Currently there are 20 councillors on the council’s planning committee – one of the largest in Wales – but this will now be reduced to 16.
What is the council’s planning committee?
The planning committee is currently made up of 20 councillors. These councillors scrutinise planning applications and ultimately vote on whether or not to approve applications.
The planning committee will make decisions on applications such as housing developments, waste facilities, shopping centres or solar farms for example.
Typically, smaller planning applications, for things such as building an extension on a house, are usually made under delegated powers – meaning planning officers employed by the council can make a decision without having to pass it through the planning committee.
At present, the 20 councillors who sit on the planning committee are:
Cllr Mike Adams (Pontllanfraith – Labour)
Cllr Elizabeth Aldworth (Bedwas, Trethomas, Machen- Labour)
Cllr Carol Andrews (Bargoed – Labour)
Cllr Alan Angel (Ystrad Mynach – Plaid Cymru)
Cllr John Bevan (Moriah – Labour)
Cllr Mike Davies (Crumlin – Plaid Cymru)
Cllr James Fussell (St Martin’s – Plaid Cymru)
Cllr Rob Gough (Llanbradach – Plaid Cymru)
Cllr David Hardacre (Darran Valley – Labour)
Cllr Lindsay Harding (Gilfach – Labour)
Cllr Alan Higgs (Aberbargoed – Labour)
Cllr Adrian Hussey (Newbridge – Labour)
Cllr Brenda Miles (Nelson – Labour)
Cllr Gaynor Oliver (Pontlottyn – Labour)
Cllr Roy Saralis (Penmaen – Labour)
Cllr Julian Simmonds (Crosskeys – Labour)
Cllr John Taylor (Aber Valley – Plaid Cymru)
Cllr Andrew Whitcombe (Abercarn – Labour)
Cllr Tom Williams (Cefn Fforest – Labour)
The average number of councillors attending planning committee meetings last year was 14, according to a council report.
The report also highlights that “significant resources” were deployed to train all 20 members last year, with a smaller committee seen as being able to adapt more quickly to changes.
Meanwhile changes to the process of determining planning applications will also be made.
Any applications which are considered to be a “major development” will be determined by the planning committee, rather than under delegated powers which they can be at present.
But decisions on more minor and householder applications should not be made by the planning committee under the revised scheme.
At a meeting on Tuesday, Independent group leader Cllr Kevin Etheridge raised concern that more decisions would be made under delegated powers under the changes.
Cllr Etheridge called for a decision on the changes to be deferred, and asked for a working group of cross-party councillors to be set up to further assess the issue.
However Cllr Sean Morgan, deputy council leader, said the changes had already come before scrutiny committees, and that there had been “ample opportunity” to examine the report.
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Independent councillor Nigel Dix questioned how many ward councillors would be able to speak at a planning committee meeting.
Ryan Thomas, planning services manager, said that only one member from each political group in a ward “should normally exercise speaking rights”.
He said this was to make “business more efficient”, and to avoid councillors speaking about the same issues.
Mr Thomas said that more than one councillor from a political group in a ward could only speak if they had opposing views.
The new planning rules also state that an objection from a consultee on a planning application should not trigger an automatic requirement for it to be considered by the planning committee.
But all applications submitted by any council officer involved in the planning process or a councillor will go before the planning committee for determination.
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