10:30AM, Friday 27 April 2018
Changes to how planning applications will be decided were approved by councillors this week amid fears council staff are refusing important planned developments without political approval.
Three development management panels, which allow councillors to assess applications, are used by the borough.
Royal Borough staff make recommendations that councillors can agree with or overturn at the panels, and staff have the authority to refuse permission for applica-tions the politicians do not consider.
But at a council meeting on Tuesday, Cllr Simon Dudley (Con, Riverside) said, of 12 major applications rejected during 2017/18, seven were rejected by officers ‘without councillors’ knowledge.
“That in my view is wrong and it is happening right now,” he added.
Cllr Phillip Bicknell (Con, Park) said officers were rejecting ‘big things going through the planning department that we are not aware of'.
He said applications were being refused permission by officers to ‘squeeze the developers’ arms up their backs to get a better deal’, which he had no issue with but was an approach he said councillors should be informed of.
The change means the council’s constitution will be amended so
that applications defined as a ‘major development’ and are recommended for refusal by the borough’s head of planning should be determined by the Borough-wide Development Management Panel.
The panel is a recent addition, being introduced last year to assess planning applications that affect the whole borough.
It sits alongside the Maidenhead, Windsor Urban and Windsor Rural Development Management Panels.
Councillors from those areas sit on the panels and can call in applications during an application’s consultation period, although may not be allowed to afterwards.
Definitions of a major application are outlined in a report sent to councillors, and include proposals with 10 or more planned houses or applications with a planned development of 1,000 square metre of floor space. The report also stated the three local panels would ‘handle around 80 minor and other applications’ a year.
Cllr MJ Saunders (Con, Bisham and Cookham) proposed the plans be amended to clarify that any plan which has not been called in is categorised as a major development and has been recommended for refusal by the planning department will go to the Borough-wide panel.
His amendment was passed and the local panels will retain their ability to call in major developments.
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