Council’s ruling group trials changes to planning committee

Residents for Uttlesford councillor Anthony Gerard, Picture: R4U

Residents for Uttlesford councillor Anthony Gerard, Picture: R4U - Credit: Archant

Changes around the planning process have been introduced at Uttlesford District Council, which, according to one councillor, means residents “now have a stronger say in what happens”.

The changes include increasing the number of minutes members of the public can speak at a planning committee meeting - from three to four - with the number town and parish councillors able to speak increasing from three to five, the same amount as district councillors.

Town and parish councillors will now be invited to site visits, where committee members visit the land being discussed as part of applications. The alterations were made in August and are still in a trial period, the council said.

Residents For Uttlesford (R4U) councillor Anthony Gerard, portfolio holder for resident and community, said: "It is time to tip the balance back towards our communities and what they need. The first changes we have implemented mean that residents and their town and parish councils now have a stronger say in what happens."

Fellow R4U Councillor Sandi Merifield, planning committee chairman, said: "Planning is often an emotive issue and it is proper that people can voice their concerns. The previous Conservative administration's policy of limiting resident speaking at planning committee meetings was wholly unacceptable. More public speakers are now allowed and they have more time to make their points. But we've gone further.

"Town and parish councils know their turf better than anyone. Their representatives are now invited to site visits and they will have longer to speak at planning meetings. We implemented the changes in August and they have been positively received by town and parish councils. We will monitor how they work and make any additional tweaks before they are formally adopted."

The R4U-led council said it aims to take a tougher line on developers. Neil Hargreaves (R4U), councillor for Newport, said: "Planning enforcement wasn't given priority by the previous administration. The result was that the worst developers often did what they wanted - building things that were different from the approved plans or without consent."

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We encourage, town and parish councils to tell us when developers aren't delivering what they agreed to so that we can take action."