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Improvements to planning application process

Publication date:

Improvements to the planning application system in St Albans District have been recommended for the benefit of all those involved.

Among the proposed changes is the greater involvement of Councillors, who make the key decisions, in pre-application discussions with developers and other applicants.

This is to ensure the views and needs of the community are voiced before applications are finalised, increasing their chances of success.

Another proposal is for the number of Development Management Committees that consider applications to be reduced from four to one.

This is to allow Councillors to focus on applications most likely to have an impact on the community.

The recommendations were made by St Albans City and District Council’s Local Plan Advisory Group (LPAG) at its meeting on Tuesday 29 November.

Members agreed that detailed proposals should be shared with all political groups prior to consideration by the Policy Committee and then Full Council.

Council officers will now draw up detailed guidelines that would increase Councillor engagement in the pre-application process according to best national practice.

Councillor Chris White, Council Leader and Chair of the LPAG, said after the meeting:

It is important that we continually look for ways to streamline and improve our services.

Involving Councillors at an early stage in the application process will ensure that developers are fully aware of the community view before they make a submission.

This will be particularly helpful for those making applications that will have a major impact in the local area or are likely to be contentious.

It also means that Councillors will become aware of issues surrounding an application long before they reach a Committee when a decision has to be made.

In addition, cutting the number of Development Management Committee meetings will put us into line with other local authorities and concentrate Councillor efforts on the big cases.

It will mean delegating more of the very small applications to our professional planners while the remaining Committee can focus on the larger decisions.

The Council’s four Development Management Committees, including three that cover specific geographic areas, are scheduled to meet almost 50 times a year in total.

Under the proposed new system, it is envisaged the one Committee would meet around 12 times a year.

It is estimated the changes would save almost £30,000 a year as well as 1,000 hours of Councillor time, some of which can be better spent on pre-application work.

The recommendations also involve changes to the call-in process which allows Councillors to demand that an application is considered by a Committee rather than delegated to officers.

Under the proposals,  Councillors would no longer be able to call in applications deemed to be of a technical nature and not of wider public interest.

These could include, for example, a household application for an extension or other small works.

All other District Councils in Hertfordshire have a single Development Management Committee.

Councillor contact: Councillor Chris White, Leader and Chair of the Local Plan Advisory Group:; 01727 845300.

Contact for the media:  John McJannet, Principal Communications Officer: 01727 296130;