At next week’s special development management committee (DMC) meeting, an agenda item on public speaking at the development management committee, recommends that all public speakers who wish to address the DMC on a planning application must register to speak before the agenda is finalised.

Furthermore, the recommendation appears to impose a further restriction, in that the only people who will be permitted to speak, will be those who have already submitted a written comment on an application.

The recommendation is here: “The pre-registration of all public speakers at Development Management Committee on planning applications be implemented so that the public (meaning those who have submitted written comment on an application) are advised to register their wish to speak on an item before the agenda is finalised.”

This seems to me to immediately disadvantage residents and hand the advantage to developers. Of course, the developer or the agent for the developer, will get a chance to speak and will be fully aware of the application and at what stage it is at.

But what if members of the public are not aware of the planning application until it comes to committee? Certainly, the only notification members of the public receive about a planning application is a notice near the application site and immediate neighbours receive a letter. 

Residents rely on councillors to advise them if they live near but not near enough to be directly informed.  What if the local councillor has not let residents know about a planning application that affects them?

EDDC tries to justify these restrictions, on the basis that most other Devon councils limit public speaking by number of people.

But EDDC is only even considering these restrictions because of pressures with the five year land supply and consequently very long agendas.

And I am sure I am not alone when I have observed time after time, many members of the DMC agreeing with each other – yet no effort is made to draw the debate to a conclusion.

This recommendation appears to penalise residents for something that is not their fault.

Isn’t the planning system set up in favour of the developer enough, especially with the advent of the National Planning Policy Framework and the myriad of pro-developer announcements made by the government?

In my view, EDDC should for this reason alone, be looking to enhance public speaking. Not scratching around for reasons to limit public contributions.

Ironically, no members of the public will be permitted to speak at this agenda item, on Tuesday 17 December!

Ward members may be able to speak, but at the chairman’s discretion….

Other recommendations on public speaking and arrangements for DMC meetings, are:

2. Non-committee members be allowed to speak on Part A non-planning application items, limited to 3 minutes per contribution. Any public speaking on non-planning application items to be left to the Chairman’s discretion.

3. In respect of planning applications, if there is time to hear from adjacent Ward Members or other non-committee members this will be allowed at the Chairman’s discretion.

4. Speaking arrangements appropriate to the meeting continue to be put in place for special meetings at the discretion of the Chairman in consultation with Democratic Services, Legal Service and Development Manager.

5. Speakers on a particular application to be considered at Planning Inspections Committee will be restricted to those who have previously registered and spoken at the Development Management Committee on the application.

Recommendations – part 2
– A meeting should not exceed 2 sessions each of up to 4 hours in length. Where this is likely to be the case the agenda to be split into two meetings
– Contentious items or items with a significant number of public registered to speak are taken at the beginning of the agenda
– All items where there are registered public speakers to be taken before items where there are no registered public speakers,
– Meetings are timetabled to include breaks and to list items as ‘not before’ a set time where they follow a scheduled break thereby avoiding unnecessary waiting

Interestingly, page 241 of the report states:  A total period of time for public speaking on each individual planning application be introduced, for example 15 minutes. [This effectively means
allowing 2 supporters and 2 objectors for each application, and is one of the most common means nationally of managing the volume of planning committee business]. This could be linked with requiring those wishing to speak on planning applications to register two days in advance, which would give an opportunity for objectors/supporters to appoint a spokesperson in advance. Members may wish to consider this on a pilot basis, given the particular time pressures on Development Management Committee at the current time.

Is anyone else thinking what I am thinking?

The item comes last on a lengthy agenda detailing areas of development for East Devon villages.  The meeting starts at 2pm on Tuesday 17 December. Here’s the agenda – http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/combined_special_dmc_agenda_171213.pdf