Planning to Have Less Councillor Involvement?

By Jane Cruickshank / January 17, 2022
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THE intricacies of Aberdeenshire Council’s planning process come under scrutiny by our councillors when the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee meets tomorrow.

And it is their own role in planning decision making that is being examined, with a review of the process where applications are either decided by planning officers – called delegation – or determined by a councillors’ vote in committee.

As it stands, Aberdeenshire Council has the lowest level of applications delegated to officers of any planning authority in Scotland. And according to the committee report, bringing applications before the area committee both slows down the process and is costly. Each application referred to area committee takes an additional 3 to 5 days of staff time.

Councillors can ask for application to come before them

There are different pathways for major developments.

For most others, any application provoking six or more valid objections is sent automatically to committee.

And councillors are notified of any application raising either five or fewer objections – or recommended for refusal. Councillors then indicate if they’d like to see the application brought before committee or if they are happy to delegate.

One change being proposed is to raise the number of objections triggering a notification to nine or fewer, with ten valid objections bringing a direct committee referral.

Community councillor flags concern

At last week’s meeting of Stonehaven and District Community Council, David Lawman flagged the paper going before the area committee and noted his concerns.

”I’m worried it is nibbling away at the powers of the elected members, and also at the powers of individuals.” he said.

”I am just slightly worried that this is an erosion of controlled checks and balances.”

Mr Lawman found support in Dawn Black who said: ”I think it is terrible that they are trying to take anything away from our elected councillors, who are there to represent us.”

But SDCC chairman Bill Watson said: ”It is not ‘they’ who are taking anything away from Aberdeenshire councillors. It would be the councillors’ decision about what balance they want to take.”

Details of tomorrow’s area committee

The full report for this item on the agenda is available online along with the full agenda for the meeting, which starts at 10am and will be conducted via Skype – above link also takes you to live stream links.