More delegation to ‘improve’ Chichester’s planning system

The district council's headquarters
The district council's headquarters

FEARS localism is being eroded failed to stop a controversial plan being given the nod this week.

Chichester District Council’s cabinet discussed proposals to delegate all domestic planning applications to officers on Tuesday.

The plans were previously met with outrage by parish councils who branded the move ‘undemocratic’.

A decision on the matter was deferred at a full council meeting on May 21, to give the district council time to consult with parishes.

Speaking at this week’s meeting Carol Purnell, cabinet member for housing and planning, said only 14 parish councils out of 68 objected to the plan this time around.

“I accept there is concern, in fact I will say prior to me being a district councillor, I would almost certainly have shared some of these concerns,” she said.

However, Cllr Purnell said the changes would improve the system, allowing parish councils to talk to the decision maker face-to-face in order to air out any concerns.

The red card system where district councillors can raise objections on planning grounds, will still be in place, and this means any application which is red carded will still go to the planning committee.

Cllr Purnell said parish councillors can go to the district councillor for their ward, or any other district councillor, and request they red card an application.

She said since 2012, of the 48 domestic applications which went to committee after parish objections, there were only four occasions where a parish representative turned up to support their case.

“Their comments on applications will be taken into account as always,” she said.

Steve Carvell, executive director of environment, said although officers are busy, he will ensure they make the time to talk to parish councils about objections to applications.

“We do need to talk to the officers and let them know it will be a priority,” he said.

Council leader Heather Caird said there had been a ‘whipping up of feeling’ across parish councils over the plans, but said after the consultation with the parishes there had only been ‘a small number’ of objections.

The cabinet recommended the proposals for approval, and the final decision will be made at a full council meeting on July 23.

Despite consultation with parish councils, some were still against the move.

Easebourne Parish Council, said: “It may save committee members’ time but the case for cost savings is unconvincing.

“This is a step in the wrong direction.”

West Wittering Parish Council said it ‘deplores’ the move, and Fernhurst Parish Council called the plans ‘totally undemocratic’.

All non-domestic applications, such as large scale developments will still be heard at committee.