Single planning committee agreed as duties shrink
CONTENTIOUS planning applications under the jurisdiction of East Hampshire District Council will be decided by one single committee in future.
The district council has given its planning system an overhaul by phasing out its north and south committees, which used to consist of all 44 elected councillors.
Under the new regime, only 12 members will be allowed to sit on the new committee.
The catalyst for the move has been the introduction of the South Downs National Park as a planning authority, which has taken over responsibility for 57 per cent of EHDC’s geographical area and 34 per cent of its planning decisions.
In addition to the reduced workload, the new slimline structure was expected to save the council £12,000 a year on staff costs, room hire and councillors’ expenses.
A special cabinet meeting was held last Thursday where members voted unanimously for the changes.
EHDC’s portfolio holder for procurement Cllr Richard Millard said: “It is an opportunity to create a ‘top gun academy’ for planning from our councillors.”
It was suggested to the cabinet that the planning committee should not reflect the political make-up of the council.
This was shot down by some Conservative members, who were acutely aware that Whitehill and Bordon wards were exclusively represented by Liberal Democrats.
EHDC’s portfolio holder for regeneration Cllr Glynis Watts said: “I think it is really important that we get political balance on the committee, particularly with the future development at Whitehill and Bordon over the next 20 years coming on now.”
Her sentiments were echoed by EHDC’s portfolio holder for community Cllr Andrew Joy.
He said: “I entirely understand why we need to strike a political balance.
“It is more than likely that the Bordon area is where the greatest chunk of development will take place.
“Quite clearly it should be completely non-political.”
Chairman Cllr Patrick Burridge said: “I would hate to be in a position where the opposition party can accuse me of forcing through a greater number of Conservatives over Liberal Democrats.
“I am sure if I was to turn round to Conservative members and said ‘I am giving your planning committee places to Liberal Democrats’ you would not be happy with me.
“Similarly, if I was to do that to Liberal Democrats they would not be happy with me either.
“It would put me in an impossible situation.”
Eleven Conservative councillors and one Liberal Democrat will sit on the committee.
Two Conservatives and one Liberal Democrat will sit on the reserve bench in case a committee member is absent.
Cabinet members will be excluded from the committee – bar the portfolio holder for planning.
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Thursday 05 December 2013
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