South Gloucestershire’s Conservative administration has announced a raft of new restrictions on the rights of residents and local councillors to question and challenge planning applications in their communities.
- The two area development control committees for the East and West of South Gloucestershire are to be replaced by a single committee for the whole authority;
- From now on all planning applications and appeals will be heard in Kingswood. Meetings at Thornbury will be scrapped;
- Local councillors will no longer be able to request a site inspection for planning applications in their ward;
- Local residents will no longer have the right to attend or ask questions at planning site inspections;
- Councillors will no longer have the right to “refer” contentious planning decisions to a meeting of the whole Council.
Commenting on the changes, incoming Leader of South Gloucestershire Lib Dems, Cllr Claire Young, said:
“This is a body blow to local residents’ rights to stand up to unsuitable planning applications in their communities. Planning rules mean the deck is already heavily stacked in favour of powerful developers and now the Conservatives are tying the hands of local councillors and residents even more.”
Lib Dem lead member of South Gloucestershire’s Development Control (West) Committee, Cllr Dave Hockey said:
“Our committee currently meets in Thornbury, which allows local residents in the West of South Gloucestershire to more easily attend when a planning application affecting their community is being considered. By scrapping area committees and insisting all meetings take place at Kingswood, the Conservatives are putting an extra barrier in the way of local residents who wish to speak on planning applications. The Conservatives claim to be in favour of localism, but these changes suggest otherwise.”