Local reviews of controversial planning decisions should be possible, Fenland councillor says

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Councillor Matthew Summers has asked Fenland District Council to consider introducing a mechanism to allow decisions to be looked at again

A council will consider calls to make objecting to planning decisions easier.

Fenland District Council (FDC) will be presented with a motion by Cllr Matthew Summers (Independent, Elm & Christchurch) next week which says it should investigate the possibility of allowing local reviews of its planning decisions.

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This could mean that approvals of large housing developments have to be ratified after FDC’s planning committee gives them the go ahead, Cllr Summers says, or it could mean giving councillors the opportunity to ask that particular decisions be looked at again.

Matthew Summers will present a motion on reforms to the planning service to Fenland District CouncilMatthew Summers will present a motion on reforms to the planning service to Fenland District Council
Matthew Summers will present a motion on reforms to the planning service to Fenland District Council
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Currently, whether or not planning applications are granted can be decided internally by council planning officers or by FDC’s planning committee, made up of seven councillors.

In exceptional cases, a planning decision might be made at a government level: for instance, approval for a waste-to-energy incinerator in Wisbech was granted by the Planning Inspectorate.

This was because of the £300m project’s large scale: it will affect residents and businesses in both Cambridgeshire and Norfolk as it’s close to the counties’ border.

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If Cllr Summers’s motion is passed, FDC officers will produce a report on options to make reviewing planning decisions locally a possibility.

'Emotive topic'

“Planning is one of this council’s biggest, most important responsibilities and one of the most emotive topics for the communities that we serve,” the motion states.

It continues that an applicant’s only recourse to have a decision looked at again is to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate for a judicial review which is “costly and constrained only to the reasonableness or legality of the decision”.

“It is clear that there is room for manoeuvrability within local procedures which would provide an opportunity to show our communities that we take their feelings seriously," the motion says.

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Motions can be brought to council meetings by any councillor and are voted on by all of their council colleagues.

Other councils have mechanisms for reviewing council decisions.

Cambridge City Council has a planning and transport scrutiny committee which looks over decisions made by its executive councillor for planning.

Peterborough City Council, meanwhile, has an appeals and planning review committee which looks at planning decisions other councillors have referred on to it.

FDC will consider Cllr Summers’s motion at a meeting on Monday, 20th May.

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