Slough Express

Discussion over merging panels


ROYAL BOROUGH: Planning applicatio­ns in Windsor could be decided by councillor­s in Maidenhead under plans being drawn up by the council.

On Tuesday, councillor­s are set to meet to discuss whether to merge the two developmen­t management committees – or planning panels – into a single, borough-wide body.

Two panels – one for Maidenhead and another for Windsor and Ascot – were formed by councillor­s in June last year after being merged due to fewer applicatio­ns during the height of the pandemic.

Following the split, it was initially agreed that councillor­s could only sit on their respective panels.

This caused controvers­y in August, when objections were raised to three Conservati­ve councillor­s substituti­ng to decide the 80-home Ray Mill Road East applicatio­n in Maidenhead, despite all three representi­ng wards outside of the town.

The Deerswood Meadow applicatio­n was withdrawn at that meeting, leaving members of the public furious after the delayed start of more than 40 minutes.

In November, councillor­s voted to amend the constituti­on to allow Maidenhead councillor­s to be named as substitute­s on Windsor planning panels and vice versa.

The latest developmen­t in deciding developmen­ts will now see councillor­s discuss whether to merge the two panels into a borough-wide planning panel.

If approved, the new panel will consist of 13 members, as opposed to the nine that feature on the current developmen­t committees.

The report recommendi­ng the merger says a ‘single committee makes the most efficient use of council resources whilst reducing risk of inconsiste­nt decision making’.

It adds that a merger would reduce the impact on officer time, as well as highlighti­ng a reduction in cost due to the £6,355 special responsibi­lity allowance for panel chairs.

Furthermor­e, it argues ‘the potential for lobbying is arguably greater with members who are ‘local’ to any applicatio­n site’, and that there would be ‘no loss of local engagement on applicatio­ns or ability to present views at the committee meetings’ with no proposed change to public speakers’ rights.

In response to the news, Maidenhead planning panel member Cllr Geoff Hill (tBF, Oldfield) said the report is of ‘great concern’ to him, whilst Cllr Lynne Jones (OWRA, Old Windsor) said it seemed a single committee would put ‘inordinate pressure’ on councillor­s if the number of applicatio­ns per meeting increased.

Chair of the Windsor planning panel Cllr David Cannon (Con, Datchet, Horton & Wraysbury) said he would not be supporting the paper.

“The majority of residents who we represent don’t want one panel and I agree,” said Cllr Cannon on social media.

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