• Public speaking restrictions at planning committee meetings kick off this month

    4th October 2014 | News | Claire
  • A new system of public speaking at planning meetings of East Devon District Council comes into operation this month (October).

    The changes will take effect from the Development Management Committee (DMC) meeting on 21 October and will continue on a trial basis for one year, followed by a review. Planning Inspections Committee meetings will be subject to the same new system.

    Documents associated with the meeting on 21 October will be distributed and/or made available online in the next few days.

    The key changes, which are for members of the public wishing to comment on a specific planning application or issue at a DMC meeting in addition to any comments from parish council delegates and ward members are:

    • Registering an intention to speak no less than three days before the meeting (speakers must have previously submitted comments during the
    consultation stage of the application)
    • Up to two objectors and two supporters speaking for up to three minutes for minor applications or other issues where DMC will be making a decision
    on the day
    • Up to five objectors and five supporters speaking for up to three minutes for major applications
    • Meeting length to be limited wherever possible to two sessions of no more than three hours in a day.

    Guidance on the new arrangements – and the planning considerations that speakers need to restrict themselves to – will be listed on a projection screen behind the chairman at each meeting.

    Effectiveness

    The changes to public speaking arrangements are part of a package of measures designed to improve the overall effectiveness of DMC meetings, which have tended to become long and unwieldy.

    The cross-party working party that put forward the original proposals – which have been carefully scrutinised and fine-tuned on several occasions since – looked to make the meetings more bearable for all concerned, including members of the public wishing to speak.

    A limit on the number of speakers is designed to reduce the amount of repetition as successive speakers have in the past made similar points, lengthening the meeting to no good effect. The limit on speakers should not restrict the opportunity for objectors to make their point and would-be speakers are being advised of ways they can ensure that someone – either another speaker or a ward member – vocalises the points they want to make.

    Improve

    Commenting ahead of the first meeting to implement the changes, Councillor Helen Parr, Chairman of DMC, said: “Asking speakers to give notice prior to the meeting is intended to improve management of the meetings so that they become less unwieldy, so avoiding a possible negative impact on the quality of debate and decision-making.

    “The new arrangements will actually extend public and member speaking to items currently excluded from the scheme and provide improved and more equitable arrangements, particularly for those later on in the agenda.

    “This initiative means EDDC will have the most generous public speaking arrangements by far, not only in the SW but possibly nationally”.

    Photograph: At full council in May, when the first battle took place – we got the plans referred to the overview and scrutiny committee, before they were voted through by at full council in July.