Fringe Box



Councillors Can Talk Freely On Potential Planning Proposals

Published on: 17 Mar, 2016
Updated on: 17 Mar, 2016

planning permission 200A former Mayor of Guildford has obtained, what he claims to be, important advice about councillors having the freedom to speak on planning issues without being accused of “pre-determination”.

It had been considered that councillors should refrain from offering views on potential planning proposals in case they were deemed later to have a prejudiced view which could disbar them from any ensuing planning committee debate and vote when an associated application came before the council.

At the time of the last local election, in May 2015, it seemed to be accepted by many councillors that they were constrained from expressing certain views on planning. It was even suggested that Guildford Greenbelt Group candidates  should not express views that they were against all green belt development.

Hon Alderman Gordon Bridger

Hon Alderman Gordon Bridger

In an email sent to the local media yesterday (Mar 17), Hon Alderman Gordon Bridger,  wrote: “Please find attached an important statement which I have cleared with Planning England and the leader of the council [Cllr Paul Spooner, GBC] which frees planning councillors from the fear of being prosecuted if they dare utter a word about a planning application before [council] officers tell them [they can].

“This  misinterpretation of government guidance  has meant that councillors have been terrified of being  penalised if they comment on a planning application. They are now free to do so – but when  considering an application in committee they need to abide by policies and planning rules.

“This is as it used to be. It is important that the public be made aware of this as well so that their representatives do not hide behind rules which have been misguidedly accepted.”

Agreeing with Mr Bridger’s point of view, the planning advisor of Planning Aid – England (the official government body dealing with the subject) wrote:“ – the councillor can have a predisposition towards voting a certain way but should not have a closed mind i.e. they would definitely vote that way no matter what was said in debate on the subject.

“If the councilor did have a closed mind they would not be liable to prosecution but rather the decision might be the subject of judicial review”.

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Responses to Councillors Can Talk Freely On Potential Planning Proposals

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    March 18, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    This myth was created in the reign of former Cllrs Mansbridge and Juneja to stifle debate and cow dissident voices into submission. The Tories loved to say that the Guildford Green Belt Group was ‘predetermined’ on the green belt and so unable to vote on planning applications. The prefects threatened anyone who spoke out of turn and all the younger children were supposed to be frightened they might get ‘prosecuted’.

    Now that borough councillors are officially free will they exercise some independent thinking instead of just toeing the party line? Doubtful.

  2. Martin Elliott Reply

    March 19, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    Maybe there’s another special case for planning.

    GBC tweeted an announcement on their website that there was a special planning committee meeting scheduled for early April despite scheduled meetings 30 March 20 April.

    I tweeted GBC asking what the subject was and the reason it was special business, needing its own meeting.

    Cllr Paul Spooner replied to tell me it concerned a planning application. Of course, what else could it be?

    Despite others joining the conversation we have failed to get further real information or a hint when an agenda would be issued. The word “transparency” has been mentioned, but Cllr Spooner felt announcing the meeting was adequate.

    The only other interesting comment seemed to imply the application may not even be ready for presentation at the special meeting.

    I may, or may not, be interested in the planning application, but how do I know?

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