Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have welcomed a last-minute decision to withdraw two controversial items from the agenda of this evening’s Council meeting, which included scrapping the authority’s existing planning decision process.
The council’s ruling Conservatives unveiled their plans last week to abolish the council’s two long-standing Development Control Committees, slash the number of councillors involved in detailed planning decisions by 30%, and make it more difficult for councillors to refer applications to a public committee hearing. Labour criticised the move and the lack of openness in publishing the plans without any consultation within the wider council.
The Conservative Administration has now relented and agreed to defer any decision until the Council’s next meeting in mid-July. This should enable councillors to scrutinise the proposals in greater depth.
Labour Group’s Lead on planning policy matters, Councillor Roger Hutchinson, says:
“I was very concerned that major changes to our planning system would be forced through without any scrutiny, so I welcome this pause which will allow us to reconsider them. I recognise that there is a need to get a balance between cost and democracy but I do not think that the original plans got that balance right. I want to avoid any change that restricts a councillor’s ability to trigger a public hearing of a local planning application, as this is an important aspect of our representational role.”
The other controversial issue that has been withdrawn from tonight’s meeting is a Conservative motion on antisemitism which Labour says could be much better worded. This will also be subject to further discussion before being re-presented in July.
Labour Group Leader Councillor Pat Rooney comments:
“We need to present a united front against antisemitism, and I am hopeful that this pause will allow us to agree better wording that does just that. South Gloucestershire has a proud tradition of the three political parties issuing joint statements against hate and discrimination, and I am confident that we will be able to do the same on this issue.”