Statement on the Council's planning process
The Council is aware some misleading information has been circulating about the Council’s planning process.
We would like to put the record straight and set out how the planning process works. Every application is allocated to a planning officer – that is not an elected councillor but a paid professional who has spent many years training in planning matters. The majority of planning applications are determined by officers under delegated powers set out in the Council’s Constitution. However, more complex and sensitive planning applications are determined at Planning Committee which usually meets every four weeks. The Council’s Planning Committee is made up of eleven councillors from all over the district who are tasked with judging matters purely on planning considerations.
Any councillor may request a relevant application to be taken to committee if they have made a valid request, in time and have a reasonable and material planning ground upon which to make the request.
The whole committee votes on these applications with each councillor’s vote being recorded for transparency.
Parish Councils are sometimes under the impression local planning authorities are obliged to consult with them in relation to planning applications. This is not true. Article 13 of the Town & Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 2015, which is the current law on the position, requires the local planning authority to inform the Parish Council of applications. The Parish Council will then notify the respective Planning Officer if they propose to make representations. The requirements in law therefore are for notification to the Parish Council and to take the representations into account. This is not quite the same as consultation which takes place with, for example, the highway authority. The Council must take into account of course the representations of the Parish Councils. However, that does not mean it will necessarily decide an application as the Parish Council has indicated it feels it should be decided.
These comments are taken into account by Planning Officers in making their delegated decisions or recommendations, but all final decisions are based solely on planning considerations and planning judgment.
On occasion, the Planning Committee may overturn an officer recommendation where a matter of planning judgement is arguable but, in doing so, the committee must be careful to abide by planning policy rules otherwise the Council may incur an award of costs against it should the committee’s decision be overturned at appeal and it has been deemed the Council has acted unreasonably.
All elected members of the Council who sit on the Planning Committee receive training before they can take their place on that committee following an election and regardless of whether they are newly elected or sitting Members of the Council. The training is very specific with respect to Members of the Council avoiding any allegations of bias or pre-determination when a planning application comes before Tandridge District Council’s Planning Committee. It is then for individual Members and particularly those who sit on Parish Councils or the County Council, to very carefully consider whether they can approach the determination of a particular planning application at Tandridge District Council’s Planning Committee with an open mind. If they decide they cannot, then they are strongly advised to make a public declaration to that effect and leave the room in which the committee is sitting, taking no part in the debate or vote until that application has been determined. What must be emphasised is this is a decision for individual councillors to make based on the advice they received during their training.