The Windsor and Eton Society expresses great Concern over RBWM Planning Process Amendments
At an Extraordinary Full Council 26th May 2020, Constitutional Amendments regarding Development Management Panels were agreed.
The Windsor and Eton Society is extremely concerned about the Report to Full Council referenced above. We consider the proposals within the Report and the small modifications agreed to be undemocratic and not in the Public Interest, nor will the proposals respect principles of best practice in Planning Procedure and decision making by elected members.
It is difficult to comprehend how a single planning panel would work in an acceptable manner, given that Windsor and Maidenhead and their respective surrounding areas, have vastly differing townships in relation to size, social fabric, environment, history, heritage, etc.
Development Management Panels’ decisions are quasi-judicial and each planning application is different and has legally to be considered properly within the relevant material and geographical considerations for that application.
Currently, the two Area Development Management Panels, Windsor and Maidenhead, have 11 Councillors on each (plus Reserves). A total of 22 decision makers for the Areas – plus the Borough Wide Development Management Panel with 13 Councillors (plus Reserves). A potential of 35 elected decision makers for planning decisions across the Borough.
To reduce their number to 9 cannot be said to be best practice, albeit for a limited period. The suggested quorum of only 3 is undemocratic, lacking in transparency and an appropriate level of scrutiny, and unacceptable.
Referring to the Recommended Option – Table 1 on front page of the Report:
“The changes would promote best practice and confidence in decision making.”
Both of these points might be said to be particularly misleading as neither can be demonstrated to be accurate. It will not be best practice compared to other Councils nor is it said who will have confidence. We do not believe that Borough residents will have any confidence.
Other Councils (examples below) are maintaining their current Planning Panels and successfully running virtual meetings. In this Report RBWM failed to make a legitimate case for not maintaining the Planning Panels or for these drastic cuts.
Examples of best practice:
1. – Oxford City Council has maintained their two panels for virtual meetings – East Area and West Area – e.g., West Area (11 Wards) 9 Councillors on panel and Quorum 5 (as per best practice.)
2. – Cheltenham Borough Council Planning meeting (28th May) was a Virtual WEBEX video conference with 14 Councillors attending and 15 officers to clarify site related details for the meeting.
This started at 10.30am, break for lunch appx 12.30, resume at 13.15 and took nearly all day. That seems sensible where there are a number of important applications to be debated/considered and where the meeting is virtual. A 4MB pdf of Officer Presentation was included with the Agenda before meeting.
Those Councils clearly expect to deliver “robust” planning decisions without seeing the need to ‘disenfranchise’ elected members, which is in stark contrast to these RBWM proposals.
The two examples above witness the fact that the statement in Paragraph 2.5 of the Report might be said to be misleading and/or inaccurate.
Also in para 2.7:
“There is a need to provide speedy and consistent decisions on planning matters at this time” and ..”fast and consistent decisions may be required to ensure swift economic recovery within the Borough.”
This concerns us. What is meant by “speedy”, “fast”, “consistent”, “swift economic recovery”?
We also note that this new process will be reviewed in December 2020. We believe that there needs to be an option for review earlier with a possible return to the previous panels as improving circumstances may permit. The Society considers that the 9-member Panel should operate for the shortest period possible in the interests of local democracy.
It is also noted that the proposed Chairman of the new Panel is the current Chairman of Maidenhead Area Development Management Panel as well as Chairman of the Licensing Panel and Vice-Chairman of the Infrastructure Overview & Scrutiny Panel.
We had urged Counsellors to vote against the undemocratic proposals and in our view the modifications do not address our points above adequately.
Notes to Editor
For press enquiries contact
Anne Taylor– Chair: The Heritage and Environment Committee
firstname.lastname@example.org 01753 866873
Local List of Non-Designated Heritage Assets
The Society, with the assistance of conservation officers from the Royal Borough, has compiled a draft list of locally important buildings and other features (non-designated assets) for Windsor and Eton. The Windsor List can be accessed here http://bit.ly/NHDAV4 . The Eton list is presently appended to the Eton Neighbourhood plan.
It is planned that in due course each building, object or structure included in the draft lists will be assessed by a Panel against criteria provided by the Borough, to confirm or otherwise its inclusion in the final lists. The Royal Borough is committed to the production of a Borough wide list (the majority of councils already have them) and welcomes the initiative of the Windsor and Eton Society in producing lists for Windsor and Eton but does not at present have the resources to devote to progressing the list towards formal Borough approval. Nevertheless the lists for Windsor and Etonm