Changes to planning application process
An important change to the process for planning applications has been agreed by St Albans City and District Council.
Councillors are to become more involved in discussions with developers and applicants before final plans are submitted.
This is to ensure the views and needs of local communities are aired at an early stage rather than after an application is made.
The change was approved at a meeting of the Council’s Policy Committee on Thursday 17 March.
Members also agreed to look at reducing the number of Planning Committees that deal with developments from four to one.
This is in line with other local authorities of a similar size and would allow Councillors and Officers to spend more time on work earlier in the process.
A report on the various implications of this change is to be drawn up for a future meeting of the Policy Committee before any action is taken.
Councillor Chris White, Committee Chair, said afterwards:
There is currently no method for Councillors to give their input on planning proposals until after an application is made.
This makes no sense to me as Councillors are the very people who are best placed to understand the impact developments will have on residents and local areas.
They are also able to pass on the views of Town and Parish Councillors, residents associations and other community groups. I am also keen to involve Parish and Town Councils in this process directly.
The planning system will be much better served if these views are aired at the earliest possible stage. This will allow applicants to take them into account before finalising their plans and submitting them.
Cllr White added:
I am pleased that the Committee has also agreed to explore the idea of streamlining our planning development committees.
It seems wasteful to have four separate committees when one would do. Such a reduction could potentially save time and money and keep us in step with other Councils.
But we also need to make sure that there are still safeguards to communities when they are especially concerned about a particular application. I am continuing to explore how these might best work with interested parties.
Councillor contact: Councillor Chris White, Leader and Chair of the Policy Committee: email@example.com; 01727 845300.
Contact for the media: John McJannet, Principal Communications Officer: 01727 296130; firstname.lastname@example.org.