Thornbury’s planning meetings to be scrapped after all
Changes to the planning system have been approved which will see an end to meetings held in Thornbury over planning applications
In future, people will have to travel to Kingswood. However, in a concession to those opposed to the move, the council will be able to choose to hold a meeting in a specific area.
A council spokesman said: “It is planned that these meetings will usually take place in the council offices in Kingswood, but there is a clear commitment that when appropriate, meetings can be held elsewhere, in other parts of the district, including Thornbury, based on the matters to be decided.”
Under the new system, the East and West development control committees will end. The most straightforward applications, such as non-controversial home extensions, will go direct to officers.
There will be two committees which will consider applications depending on their size and strategic importance.
In addition, there will be a new Spatial Planning Committee to oversee decision making.
All the committees will be made up of councillors from all parties.
Cabinet Member for Planning, Transportation and the Strategic Environment, Councillor Colin Hunt, said: “These changes simplify the system. Development proposals will be published, and everyone will be able to see the process they will follow.”
“By making the process more visible and transparent, applicants, residents, Town and Parish Councils and other stakeholders will be able to make better submissions – in favour of, or against a proposal – earlier in the process.”
The changes also mean that members of the public will need to attend committee to make the case for a site visit. However, at this point they will be able to explain the issues which they would like to be considered. The committee will decide whether a visit is required.
If approval is given, members of the public will no longer be able to speak at the site visit or ask questions, this will be up to local ward, town or parish councillors.
Liberal Democrat leader, Claire Young, said: “It changes how the public interacts with the planning system and with no consultation with the public whatsoever.”
At the full cabinet meeting a Liberal Democrat proposal that the public should be consulted on the plans for 12 weeks was defeated.
Cllr Maggie Tyrrell (Thornbury South & Alveston) said: “Because the public have not been consulted, I’m not sure many people will realise they are about to lose important planning rights. Under these rule changes, members of the public will be banned from attending and speaking at site inspections, as they currently can. Regular planning meetings at Thornbury will be scrapped, meaning that the planning process will be made less accessible for residents in the west of South Gloucestershire. Residents will feel that the deck is being stacked against them even further. This really is a shabby and undemocratic move by the Conservatives.”
The Chairman of TRAPP’D, (Thornbury Residents Against Poorly Planned Development) Colin Gardner, said: “These changes to the planning system are all about exerting central control by the Council to ensure that its preferred large developments are approved without a hitch, dressed up as modernisation and cost saving.”
“In the past Thornbury had two of its local Councillors on the Planning Committee that would make decisions impacting Thornbury, but in future we may have none.”