Opposition councillors are still angry that planning officers were not allowed to provide evidence confidentially to the Planning Advisory Service team. The scope of the investigation was very narrow, with quite specific terms of reference.
Cllr Roger Hayes submitted some fairly robust terms of reference for the inquiry although they were not used:
1. Members of the public and Councillors should be able to submit any evidence they consider relevant.
2. The full report should be made public.
3. Terms of Reference should include examining:
* Whether the political groups meet before planning meetings to consider the applications, and whether this constitutes ‘pre-determination’
* Whether there is evidence of ‘block voting’ along political lines or of votes being ‘organised’ for political reasons
* Whether there is evidence of applications from particular sections of the community receiving favourable treatment in return for likely political advantage
* Whether there is evidence of an unhealthily close relationship between certain developers/applicants and the Council, Councillors or Officers
* Whether there is evidence that relevant specialist advice from some officers is either not sought, or is ignored if it is politically inconvenient
* Whether there is political pressure put on planning officers to influence their recommendations, either at the Agenda Meeting or otherwise
4. Current or recently serving officers should be able to give evidence without their names being revealed if they wish.
However, we are happy that certain recommendations made will be met:
At present, when councillors vote on applications they do so by a show of hands, which is not currently recorded. — but in future recording the way members vote could help to refute any allegations of impropriety.
There was also a view that the meetings could be more ‘user friendly’ and measures could be put in place to better explain to how the planning process works to members of the public attending meetings.