Keep planning panels separate
RBWM: Councillors reject borough-wide recommendation
Councillors were heavily against the creation of a borough-wide planning panel as concerns were raised over whether members from outside an area would have necessary knowledge on planning applications there.
Royal Borough planning officers wanted to amend the council constitution and form a single Royal Borough Development Management Committee, saying the existing two panels were having a ‘significant impact’ on their resources.
This was backed by lead member for planning, Cllr Phil Haseler (Con, Cox Green), who told this week’s full council meeting that his experience of chairing a single panel worked ‘incredibly well’.
The Royal Borough implemented one panel during the pandemic as fewer applications came forward for determination.
“Members sitting on the planning committee are representing the local planning authority, not their ward, village or town,” he added.
“There is no evidence to suggest that a single
committee are incapable of making planning decisions.”
In November – after two panels had returned– councillors voted to amend the constitution to allow Windsor members to be named as substitutes on Maidenhead panels, and vice versa.
This followed controversy at previous meetings in which members from outside their ward were sitting on another panel to determine applications.
Despite receiving support from party colleagues Cllr David Hilton (Ascot and Sunninghill) and Cllr David Coppinger (Bray), the proposal to create one panel was shot down by 35 councillors, including several Conservatives, at the Maidenhead Town Hall meeting on Tuesday.
Cllr Leo Walters (Con, Bray) said: “I am afraid I can’t agree with this. Residents like to have someone who at least knows the area.”
Cllr David Cannon (Con, Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury), who chairs the Windsor planning panel, added he can see ‘no benefit’ to creating one panel.
“I understand officers time, but we are elected to represent our residents and deliver for them, and I cannot support this paper.”
Leader of the council, Cllr Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams), also voted against the proposal, saying he ‘fully understands the merits’ of having two panels, which he claimed have worked ‘very well’.
Cllr Lynne Jones (OWRA, Old Windsor) alluded to councillors’ busy private lives and families, adding that one panel would make the workload intolerable.
“Staffing should not stop democratic process,” she said. “There is nothing more [in this paper] that will make me change my view.”
Councillors voted three for and 35 against the recommendation to create a single panel.