• Plans for major restrictions to public speaking rights will NOT be scrutinised

    28th March 2014 | News | Claire
  • At last night’s overview and scrutiny committee I asked that the proposals, which will be debated by the planning committee on Tuesday (1 April), be called-in to the overview and scrutiny committee’s April meeting for examination.

    A group of councillors have proposed strict limits on the number of public speakers, which would mean that many people who are currently permitted to address councillors on the development management committee in person, will no longer be able to do so, from May.

    And in my view, developers and agents are to be handed a clear advantage as they would receive a slot of their own, in addition to the slots allocated for supporters of applications.

    A pre-registration time of three days is also set out in the paper.

    The plans are unworkable and far too complicated, in my view.

    Chairman, Cllr Tim Wood, told me that the overview and scrutiny committee did not have the constitutional right to call-in matters relating to the planning committee, only the cabinet. 

    So I proposed instead, that the plans go before the next standards committee (as this is where the public speaking debate had originated). I also expressed concern about the extremely short timescale for agreeing the restrictions. The plans are set to be rubber-stamped at the May full council meeting.  But no valid reason has been given for the rush.

    Cllr Ray Bloxham, whose working party drew up the controversial plans, insisted that the proper route for his paper was the full council meeting after the development management committee discussed the issue on Tuesday. This, he said, was the correct procedure. “Supported or not supported.”

    Cllr Bloxham added that the democratic process should be allowed to take its course.

    Cllr Eileen Wragg added her voice to the concerns about the paper and supported my proposal for a call-in, but was also told that this was not possible.

    Something has gone very wrong here. Massive public speaking restrictions, many more months of planning uncertainty predicted, just one committee of councillors debating the plans before they go (in minute form) to full council, where they are likely to be nodded through by a block conservative vote.

    At the very least, a second council committee should be debating this. Or a fair and a more democratic approach may be to suggest that the public might be consulted on the changes!

    Will that happen? 

    I hope that the meeting on Tuesday 1 April is very well attended by members of the public (even if they are prevented from speaking on the item). The meeting starts at 9.30am. Frustratingly, I cannot be there, but I will be VERY interested to hear what happens.

    Below is a detailed account of the planned changes to public speaking rights at planning committee meetings.


    Photograph:  How would most of these Feniton residents feel when they are told they cannot address the planning committee, if yet more major applications arrive in the village?