Friday, February 06, 2009

"Ve have Vays of making you conform"

What's happening in the Powys Planning Service. There seems to be a sudden breakout of efficiency. Two people who have been tearing their hair out in frustration, waiting for a decision, have telephoned me to say that the approval notice arrived this week. Regular visitors will have read about my involvement with what I've been referring to as local 'Agents' who have been tamping about what they regard as an unacceptably slow service. Well, this blog fearlessly reports it as it hears it.

Had two other calls relating to this issue today from Motgomeryshire Councillors. Following the 'Agents' meeting a few weeks ago where there were '30 Angry Men', a successful meeting (forum) was held with the Council's 'Planning First Team'. The messages emanating from the 'Forum' were encouraging. But what matters is translation into 'action'. The campaign goes on. And the 'Agents' next step was to invite all of Montgomeryshire's Councillors to a meeting to outline their concerns - on Feb 11th. The invites went out. Then this week all the Councillors received the following letter from their legal department.

Dear Member,

Re; Meeting called by agents regarding planning matters at Montgomery on Febuary 11th.

I have been made aware that Councillors in Montgomeryshire have been invited to attend the above meeting.

My purpose in writing has been to remind Members of both the Planning Committee and the Employment Committee that should they attend this meeting then this may create difficulties for them in their future roles on these committees.

I am sure members of these two committees will understand the potential for future conflicts conflicts of interest connected with attending this meeting.

Kind Regards'

Clarance Meredith.

Immediate reaction was that this was like something out of a James Bond film. But my considered reaction is that its good advice. If I was a councillor, I would still go to the meeting, but I'd discuss it with Mr Meredith first - and be ready to walk out if any inappropriate discussion starts. There will need to be a strong Chair. Now the last time I turned up at an Agents meeting I was asked to chair it. I think it would be wise of me to be ready on the 11th - just in case I'm asked again. Any discussion that relates to specific applications or to specific employees will have to be ruled out - if the Councillors are not to be compromised. But this letter does tell us something about the world we live in though.

5 comments:

Matt said...

Being cynical, and you'll be more in the loop than I on this Glyn, it would appear that WAG (see the consultation report from the renewable energy routemap and some rumblings elsewhere) are about to slam down on LPAs regarding delays - especially windfarm applications. Might this have something to do with it?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you could explain to me why a councillor who's made it known that he thinks there are enough wind farms in Montgomeryshre is not allowed to take part in any planning discussions or vote on this subject, yet someone who has turbines on his land is allowed to vote for them?!!!

Jeff Jones said...

This is typical of the incorrect advice often given to councillors by planning officers regarding predetermination. Councillors have to be careful that they do not give the impression that they have already made up their mind regarding a planning matter. Any councillor saying, for example, at a public meeting that they were opposed to a planning appliction is effectively risking a possible leagal challenge if they subsequently attend the planning committee and vote on the issue. As long as they realie this there is absolutely nothing wrong in my opinion and with 30 years experienec of local government for councillors listening to the arguments for or against a planning application. The meeting you mention Glyn seems to be a very sensible way for individuals to meet councillors to discuss general concerns reagding the planning system in the area. My advice to Powys councillors would be to ignore the letter. You have a democratic duty to listen to the concerns of constituents. If councillors are worried about the legal issue then go to the Standards Board for England website and download the excellent free pamphlet on predetermination written by a well known and respected QC.

Glyn Davies said...

Matt - I hadn't heard that. I did read that Mick Bates, who chairs the Sustainability Committee in the Assembly was lambasting all of those people (including a goodly number of his constituents) who are opposed to wind farms.

Anon - Sorry but I cannot explain it. That needs someone with a civil servant's thought process.

Jeff - I agree, but its as well to avoid trouble if possible. Its better if the meeting doesn't discuss specific applications or individual staff members. I recall when I was one of the panel of AMs who sat on the Planning Panel. You've never seen nervousness like it amongst officers - and I wasn't the easiest to control. I remember once meeting a deputation outside the senedd to receive a petition, when the leader of the protesters gave me a tiny litttle soft toy as a momento of the visit. It never reached my grasp. It was snatched before it made it to my hand.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Jones said
"Councillors have to be careful that they do not give the impression that they have already made up their mind regarding a planning matter. Any councillor saying, for example, at a public meeting that they were opposed to a planning appliction is effectively risking a possible leagal challenge if they subsequently attend the planning committee and vote on the issue."

What about the councillor who's a farmer with wind turbines on his land,actions speak louder than words, surely one can't be more predetermined than that?!