Changes to Kirklees Council’s planning committees are being considered.
A ‘super committee’ could be formed to rule on applications of strategic importance.
And councillors could be asked to give individual reasons for refusing an application.
Clr Cathy Scott, joint Cabinet member for Place, said: “We’re looking at planning committee members individually justifying their reasons for refusing an application and making a statement about why they’ve gone against the officer’s decision.”
And Clr Peter McBride, the other joint Cabinet member for Place, spoke of the super committee plan and said: “These would be for the bigger applications that need to be dealt with separately from the parochial committees.
“We’re proposing a super committee that will deal with strategic applications in a far more analytical and less parochial way.”
Kirklees has two committees of 16 members each and allows all objectors and supporters to speak, plus there’s a Planning and Highways Committee to maintain an overview of the committees’ work and to deal with issues refer for decision if it’s a departure from planning policy.
Neighbouring Calderdale Council allows just one speaker in support and one against and has just seven committee members.
At this week’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel for Development and Environment, Clr McBride spoke about recent feedback which showed “Kirklees appears not to be open for business”.
Clr McBride said: “The Peer Group Review asked for feedback and what came back was interesting.
“We have vision but what came back was that there was no substance because it appears that we are not open for business.
“Although we actively talk to businesses, they look at decisions of the planning committees and they see perversity.
“They see applications turned down when logically it should have been straightforward.
“To the outside it looks like Kirklees is not open for business.”
The Peer Group Review has been distributed among councillors and is due to go to co-optees, but has not been made public.
Clr McBride says it asks councillors to think about how their decisions are seen by the outside world.
He added: “It seems that we’re ignoring officers’ recommendations and we’re ignoring government guidelines and that is doing us a great deal of harm.
“What impression does that give the private sector? It’s not the impression we want to give.”
Clr Ken Sims, Scrutiny Panel chairman, said: “Planning isn’t black and white, we’ve no plan and that mean’s we’ve got problems.
“Developers will always push for more.
“Councillors have a duty of care to our constituents, some decisions are right and some are wrong, but we know our areas.”
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