At Wednesday's South Gloucestershire Council meeting, every Conservative Councillor present (with one abstention) voted not to allow members of the public to speak at planning site visits.
Planning site visits take place to allow members of planning committees to see the locations of planning applications in-person, with the support of council officers. Until 2018 members of the public were allowed to attend planning site visits and make their concerns known to the members of the committee – this was abolished by the Conservative administration.
An attempt, put forward by the Liberal Democrat Group, to restore the right of members of the public to speak at planning site visits was supported by the Labour Group but blocked by the ruling Conservatives.
Speaking during the debate, Councillor Adrian Rush, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Planning, Transport and Strategic Environment said,
“We serve the public and we should be giving local people the right to speak at these visits. Members of the public should have the opportunity to speak in their local areas, not having to travel all the way to Kingswood for a planning committee, which excludes a lot of people.”
Summing up, Councillor Jayne Stansfield, Liberal Democrat Lead Member for Development Management said,
“The planning process needs to be seen to be transparent and democratic. Site visits give the public an opportunity to raise issues on site, where members of the committee can see what the issues are. If we go back to allowing people to speak at site visits they will have a greater level of confidence in the system.”