Portsmouth Conservative prevent a bid to move more planning decisions behind closed doors.
A controversial report was today brought before the councils Planning boss Cllr Hugh Mason in an attempt to limit the number of objections residents could make before an application goes to the Planning Committee. The changes would have limited residents’ ability to make representation and provide the planning committee with local informed opinions about applications.
Cllr Terry Norton who spoke at the meeting said “My view is that the public has the right to take their planning applications to the planning committee, make deputations and have a decision decided by what is presented on the day by the elected members of the Planning Committee. The fact that Portsmouth City Council has an endless backlog of applications and find it difficult to recruit is no fault to residents in the city.”
He added, “The state of planning at Portsmouth City Council is to no fault of the taxpayer. Therefore why should the public be penalised? Fundamentally, If the Liberal Democrats can’t get their house in order then we need to review processes not force through changes that make it harder for the public to be heard and that diminishes accountability and democracy.”
“Furthermore, if we have a system where applicants can’t get hold of anyone, can’t find out what the progress of their application is, aren’t given any indication as to when a decision is likely to be decided, then why shouldn’t they have the option to take a case before a committee?”
Portsmouth Conservatives together with the MP for Portsmouth North, Penny Mordaunt have continually raised concerns regarding the poor state of the planning department at the city council following volumes of casework relating to delays and blocks with the planning department causing misery to residents.
18 months ago the Portsmouth Conservative council group took a motion to Full Council for debate on this issue. Cllr Norton, who proposed the motion and attended today’s meeting said “we’ve seen little to no improvements since asking Full Council to review the service, So I ask you chair to reconsider. Not to punish the public but to make additional efforts to improve the service through greater funding, investing further in recruitment and increasing levels of communication”
Cllr Scott Payter-Harris also attended the meeting today and raised concerns about the democratic deficit and changes to the constitution that the administrations proposals would result in. He said; “The constitution is a body of fundamental principles and ideals which need to be upheld and respected. Changes to the planning system must be consulted on through the correct channels. Thankfully, following the intervention of myself and Cllr Terry Norton, this report will now to go the Governance Audit and Standards committee to be scrutinised in the correct and proper manner. It will also give an opportunity for all councillors to share their views. Today’s referral is a win for residents, a win for democracy and a blow to the anti-democratic types looking to stifle democratic life and processes in our city.”