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.
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?