Fears over council planning application delegation plans

The administration at County Hall has been urged to have a re-think over proposals for a shake-up of the system in Northumberland.

Following reviews by auditor Deloitte and Planning Officers Society Enterprises, various recommendations were put forward by the development management department to county councillors.

A consultation has been carried out with parish and town councils and other local organisations have also responded to the plans.

They include Ponteland Civic Society, which is urging the councillors to give adequate weight to local democratic representation when making changes.

Its response says: ‘We are concerned that a higher proportion of applications are, apparently, to be delegated to the officers and fewer will be seen by councillors acting on planning committees.

‘We respectfully suggest that your requirements for simplification could be adequately served if you were to continue to refer objections to the full planning committees in cases where five objections or more have been received (from within the parish) and certain circumstances apply.

‘These are as follows: applications relating to a conservation area, applications relating to a listed building, a Tree Preservation Order or an asset of community value, applications involving more than five dwellings on a single site, applications involving a change of frontage, particularly where a ‘green boundary’ could be compromised, applications involving a ‘wildlife corridor’, applications for a change of use from residential to commercial and applications for wind turbines, solar farms, surface mining or similar.’

The Northumberland & Newcastle Society has also objected to the proposals.

It said: ‘If they go ahead, the people of Northumberland will have much less say in planning applications as most decisions will be made entirely by county council officers.’