Planning changes in the Aylesbury Vale which could freeze out town and parish councils will be 'reviewed constantly' says planning boss

Plans which it is feared will freeze out town and parish councils from the planning process will be 'reviewed constantly' according to the man in charge of the changes.
A screen shot from the cabinet meeting Warren Whyte (top left)A screen shot from the cabinet meeting Warren Whyte (top left)
A screen shot from the cabinet meeting Warren Whyte (top left)

Warren Whyte, portfolio holder for planning at the new Buckinghamshire Council, answered questions from councillor Robin Stuchbury on the changes at a recently webcast cabinet meeting.

The changes mean that instead of being about to call in planning applications themselves, town and parish councils will now have to ask a Buckinghamshire Council member to do it for them.

This has led to fears that democracy is being frozen out at the most local level, and that the representatives who know their areas best will not be able to speak out.

Mr Whyte said that the new 'rules of engagement' were inherited by the new council from the previous shadow authority, at a time when he was not cabinet member for planning.

Mr Stuchbury however raised concerns that sometimes the town or parish council for the area may not share the same view as the elected member and this would lead to problems with the new system.

In the past local councils have been encouraged to create local plans, which lay out the level of acceptable development in their areas. However, there are fears that these plans will not be worth the paper they are printed on, without the involvement of the groups that made them.

Last week Richard Lloyd, planning chairman at Aylesbury Town Council said: "Localism is supposed to be one of the key tenants of the new authority and as such that means decision making and inputting into those decisions at a local level.

Not only are town's and parishes statutory consultees, they know their areas and should be afforded the opportunity to input into decisions that directly affect them without having to rely on a 'friendly' County Councillor to persuade a planning officer to bring it to committee - that is whether the parish objects to OR supports an application.

"This feels like a disenfranchisement."

Speaking about preparations to adopt the news system, Mr Whyte said: "There was a training workshop for parishes and town councils back in December which I know was really well-attended,

"Unfortunately the one planned for March had to be postponed due to the pandemic, and that's unfortunate because that would have been the time that we would have gone through a lot of the detail relating to the new council and planning protocol.

"I have, last week, arranged for an update to all councillors so that they can be reminded of the new procedures and there is online training as well for all councillors."

Mr Whyte also said that he had asked for an update to be sent to all parish and town councillors.