Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Back to Earth with a bump

Today was a training day for councillors who are part of the planning committee or might act as substitutes or have an interest in planning issues. If we want to be able to take part in making planning decisions we have to do this training, otherwise there's no guarantee we will make the decisions for the right reasons. If we don't have our reasons clear in our minds and clearly within planning law and guidance then we could find the decision being appealed against or even worse, the authority being accused of maladministration with all that implies.
For the first time since I've been on the council the training was given by outside planning consultants, so it was very interesting to hear an outsiders' view of what we can do as councillors and what should be asked of the developers. Some of Stockton's procedures are apparently very good and go beyond what is required of us, while some other things seemed to me to be not so good and actually in one or two areas a bit questionable. I'm going to have some interesting discussions with planning officers in the future I think.
Meanwhile it was good to have 6 of our group present so we can take our turn on the committee. I just hope it wasn't too daunting for those who've not done it before. One of my new colleagues is sitting this week - there's an application in her ward and it's going to be interesting for her to see how it's determined. Site visit tomorrow - whoopee!! We've a new chairman and vice-chairman and already the chairman is making his presence felt. He wants us to turn up half an hour early to committee to read any update reports that are produced. There's no chance of my doing that this week because it's on Thursday and I just won't get finished with family commitments in time for that.

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