Planning applications shake-up in the pipeline

Monday 23rd November 2009 |

PLANNING applicants could be allowed to speak at planning committee meetings following a review of the system, confirmed Local Government and the Environment Minister John Shimmin (pictured).

This controlled public speaking would be an alternative to the review stage of the planning system, which was scrapped in 2005, the minister told Tynwald on Tuesday.

He was responding to a question tabled by David Cannan (Michael) which asked if the review stage, where the planning committee reviews its own decision, would be reinstated.

Sweeping changes were made to the planning process four years ago in an attempt to cut out bureacracy. These included the scrapping of the review stage of the planning process and the introduction of public planning committee meetings.

It was hoped that if members of the public can see how the decision is made they will be more inclined to accept it and not appeal.

But Mr Cannan felt the removal of the review stage had only led to more costly appeals which require the service of a professional inspector from the UK.

Mr Shimmin confirmed the reinstatement of the procedure was one of the issues being considered in a general review of the planning system.

But he said, while no final decisions had been made, it was 'unlikely' it would be included in the proposals.

However, he said: 'There were some merits to the review process, most obviously the opportunity for the applicant and other parties to explain or amplify their positions, and for the committee to seek clarification about factual matters.'

He therefore hopes to introduce controlled public-speaking at planning committee meetings.

'This happens in a wide variety of ways in other administrations,' he said, 'but it also raises practical and legal concerns which can only be satisfactorily addressed with proper resources and training.'

If agreed, he said the idea would be trialled for at least a year as soon as his department is in a position to administer it soundly and efficiently.

He said the review system was 'bad in law' because 'it involves a decision-making body looking again at a matter which it should have already considered fully and properly'.

'Put simply,' he said, 'the committee should not be able to reach a decision which is different to the first one.'

He explained that, although it was previously common practice for amended proposals to be tabled at the review, it was now well-established that all amendments should be the subject of a new application and the full process of consultation.

Source: Isle of Man Today

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