A housebuilder has launched a petition calling for compulsory training for planning committee members.
All Waverley Borough councillors receive training before they join planning committees and a few councillors have professional qualifications.
A prominent housebuilder has launched a petition calling for legal changes to make planning committee members take compulsory training and for at least half to secure a formal planning qualification in order to prevent decisions “based on politics and not planning merit”.
Housebuilder Inland Homes has called for a change in the law to require planning committee members to have compulsory planning training before they sit on a planning committee, and for 50 per cent of them to have a planning qualification.
Planning committee members in England are not required by law to have any planning training, and it is “virtually unheard of” for them to have planning qualifications, said Inland Homes. In Scotland, however, they are legally required to have training.
Inland Homes launched the petition on the Change.org website last week, saying that the planning system is “failing in its current form” and that “urgent reform is needed”.
“One of the biggest issues is the politically charged arrangement of planning committees which results in decisions on planning applications that are based on politics and not planning merit,” said the petition.
“These local and emotive committee members often have as little as a few hours training before being allowed to determine planning applications.”
The current structure of committee meetings was established over 50 years ago when members “largely commented on the principle of planning rather than detailed submissions”, said the petition.
“Today, the same application requires drawings, documents and reports that can total thousands of pages. The system has changed yet the committee structure has remained the same.”
A video produced by Inland Homes to accompany the petition stated that “policy compliant schemes allocated within local plans and recommended for approval by planners continue to be arbitrarily rejected”.
It also showed an application submitted by Inland Homes for 50 homes being discussed during a virtual planning committee, which the firm said was a policy compliant scheme and allocated in the adopted local plan.
The video highlighted comments from members including “even though the officers and the inspector say it is permissible, we should really consider whether we agree with that”. The committee ultimately refused the application without giving clear reasons why claimed Inland Homes.
Build anywhere, or even everywhere, in the borough of Waverley – except in Haslemere?
Inland Homes said that despite developers spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on planning applications, planning committee members “too often” disregard the advice of qualified planning officers.
“This must change in order to enable the planning system to deliver a continuous supply of private and affordable homes,” it said.
Well – he would, wouldn’t he?
26 thoughts on “A house builder wants planning committee members to shape up.”
Not obvious what councils would do if the elected membership didn’t have members with a planning qualification. Refuse all applications due to an inability to meet? Probably not quite what Inland have in mind.
Good luck getting the planning dept to do anything.
I’m still waiting for a response by Paul Follows through various mediums. Is he absent?
Many of our followers are losing their patience awaiting a decision, one way or the other, from Waverley Planners. What the heck is the delay? Covid? Lack of experienced officers? It cannot be Brexit – can it?
Who is in charge of the Borough Council and the planning department?
The Leader is Paul Follows, and the Chief Planning Officer is Zac Ellwood.
Is there a way of contacting Mr. Follows? He appears to be very prolific when trying to score points against other councillors, but is unreachable when there is a problem in his council that needs addressing.
Mike I am here , and certainly not unreachable? Have you been trying to contact me as I’ve not seen any emails or anything from any Mike I’m afraid?
We have always found Cllr Follows very easy to contact and the WW ALWAYS receives a response. Though we sometimes wonder how on earth he manages to respond to everyone’s queries. However, more often than not it is impossible to reach planning officers.
Have emailed and tweeted you to no avail.
Could you explain what on earth is going on with your planning department and how you are going to remedy it – they are in despair there with the backlog and nobody seems to know why everything is taking so long.
Yes. The planning department at WBC is failing us all, and something has to be done – and soon!
Again, Cllr Follows mysteriously silent when actually asked about progress… has there been any? Should we just crack on with our works because the council leader is too busy making videos about Afghanistan and Pride to bother ensuring one of the most important functions of his borough council actually works? Looking back at this site it’s been a problem for a long time. Will he ever stop blaming central government or ‘the former guys’ and take some responsibility?
There have been so many ugly buildings built that either the planning member, is blind, has not got a clue or like government ministers there’s a form of a back handed
Former PMs are as bad as well
We have to agree with you there, Pete. Some of the homes currently under construction in Waverley are downright ugly – and we suspect there are many more to come. Secretary of State ‘Bob, The Builder Jenrick’, is currently asking developers to “build beautiful.” Instead of taking developers’ money to prop up the Tory Party and boost its coffers perhaps, he should suggest they use the money to do what he claims he wants
Councillors are often shown, by officers, shoddily created powerpoint slides of tiny elevations and plans. No-one can make judgements on scale, design and appropriateness from such scant information. They might as well be blind.
We have to agree with you there, BBB. Though we understand that many councillors do their homework and review the information in the planning department.
Yes, many Councillors on Planning Committees are not fit for purpose. They need training properly. But we wouldn’t need their close scrutiny and judgement if Waverley Planning Officers were not so inexperienced and such a push over. Developers run rings around them with a bombardment of consultant misrepresentations and lies and none of the officers apply any due diligence. This unprofessionalism (at Waverley and County) is why we have to rely on Councillors…. and we have all seen how random that has become.
Sadly planning officers are too concerned about the possibility of an applicant winning on appeal if they turn a plan down … costs etc etc. But as for training – councillors may well get a “qualification” but what is to stop them reverting to their old ways regardless? You can take a horse to water…and all that
Is it any wonder that planning officers and councillors are scared? With a Government hell-bent on riding roughshod over local opinion through the Planning Inspectorate, with the threat of costs? For example, Waverley planners refuse Thakeham’s application to build 99 homes on agricultural land in Alfold. An appeal follows for December 21 and a decision in January 22. Let’s see how much notice the inspector takes of local opinion on that one!
Mike B’s criticisms of Cllr Follows are sufficiently scattergun to suggest a political agenda going beyond the planning issue. We all agree that there have been substantial delays in the planning process, due to the range of factors already discussed. Action needs to be taken to reduce and then eliminate the backlog. This is already in process and short of acting as a part-time planning officer himself and pondering the merits of, say, a proposal for a new conservatory, it’s not obvious what Mike expects the council leader to do to accelerate the improvement further.
It is *also* part of the council leader’s job to address other issues, such as ensuring that the arrival of refugees from Afghanistan goes well and that the major Pride event in Godalming runs smoothly. The implication that he should be ignoring these issues so as to do some moonlight work in the planning department is, with all due respect to Mike, not sensible.
Leader, Waverley Labour Group
I’m, someone who has voted Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative in my time and have no clear political home. The current Leader should focus on the job he was appointed to do at a local level, not political grandstanding. We have problems with planning and if he puts his Surrey County Council hat on, he could address potholes, broken pavements, and social care. Liz Townsend gets things done locally with little self-promotion, maybe she should make a bid for leadership, then he could step aside and focus on Political sound bites for the Lib Dems?
No political agenda, however I feel that leaders should be held to account when their council services are woefully underperforming, wouldn’t you agree? All I am asking for is what is being done about it. Looking forward to a reply.
No reply forthcoming as of yet… no tweets answered…. are the lights on in Waverley Towers?
I saw Paul’s response to you, saying he’d not had a direct enquiry from you. Have you emailed him/had a reply? I don’t want to duplicate, but briefly the position is that the planning department is making progress in reducing the backlog, partly by not doing pre-app consultations at the moment.
Have emailed, had no reply. Tweeted twice and no reply. He popped up on here then disappeared again having not replied to my question which was simply asking what the problem was and how was he going to remedy it. I know about the pre-app consultations being stopped, what is worrying is they are prioritising the simpler applications so it sounds like anything that requires a bit of work is being swept under the carpet in favour of loft conversions and granny annexes.
We have always found PF very approachable though I suspect this time the question you have asked – should be a formal question to the next Full Council Meeting when the Chief Planning Officer and/or the Portfolio Holder for Planning Andy McLeod should answer your written question in public so we can all hear. You are right, any application that is slightly unusual is being put on the back-burner, some for as long as a year – which is totally unacceptable.
We have suggested that a formal written question should go to the next Full Council Meeting. Some of the delays being experienced are totally unacceptable. The public deserves a full statement, including how many planning applications have been waiting over the statutory time limit. How many have been waiting over six months and longer, and why?