Agenda and minutes

Constitution Working Group - Thursday, 3rd February, 2022 7.00 pm

Venue: Virtual Meeting on Zoom. View directions

Contact: V. Messenger Tel: (01992) 564243  Email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

19.

Substitute Members

To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.

Minutes:

The Working Group noted that Councillor N Bedford was appointed as substitute for Councillor J Philip.

20.

Notes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 305 KB

To agree the notes of the meeting of the Working Group held on 23 November 2021.

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

That the notes of the Working Group held on 23 November 2021 be agreed as a correct record, subject to the amendment of ‘and’ to ‘had’ at Minute no 17 (a), (viii) Economic Development Strategy, second sentence, to read:

“The town centre regeneration reports had gone to Overview and Scrutiny Committee [8 June 2021] and then to Cabinet [21 June 2021], which was a better process.”

21.

Terms of Reference & Work Programme pdf icon PDF 98 KB

To review the terms of reference and progress with the achievement of the current work programme for the Working Group.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(a)          Terms of Reference

 

The Working Group noted the Terms of Reference.

 

(b)          Work Programme

 

It was agreed that item (7), Article 4 – The Full Council Terms of Reference, sub-paragraph 2(b), in relation to reviewing the role of Council appointees to outside bodies, would go to the next Working Group meeting on 7 April 2022.

22.

Constitution - Revisions & Amendments

(Monitoring Officer) To note that the Working Group’s Report to Council of 16 December 2021 was deferred to a future Council meeting. Therefore, the Working Group’s recommendations from 23 November 2021 meeting regarding Article 4, The Full Council Terms of Reference, sub-paragraph 1(c) have yet to be approved by Council.

Minutes:

The Working Group noted that its Report to Council was deferred on 16 December 2021 to Council’s next meeting on 24 February 2022. Therefore, its recommendations from 23 November 2021 meeting regarding Article 4, The Full Council Terms of Reference, sub-paragraph 1(c) had yet to be approved by Council.

23.

Part 3 - Scheme of Delegation - Appendix 3 - Delegation to Officers from Full Council pdf icon PDF 453 KB

To discuss the current Scheme of Delegation (attached) in relation to the CLD2 delegated powers that decide if a planning application goes to committee or not.

Minutes:

The CLD2 delegations covered Development Management and were revised about four years ago. N Richardson (Planning Service Director) advised it allowed the service director, or a level 2 or 1 officer nominated by him, to deal with planning applications under delegated powers. Planning application determinations were dependent on various thresholds and CLD2 listed applications that would need to go to a planning committee. It also detailed the criteria for objections (material to the planning merits) received from parish and town councils, and members of the public (see: (A) 3(a) to 3(c)). A member (whose ward was within the Plans Sub-Committee Area) was also allowed to request an application be referred to committee for consideration subject to a written request received within four weeks of its notification in the Weekly List (see: (A) 3(d)).

 

Councillor S Heap had proposed this item for the work programme and commented that for applicants, a lot of planning cases were taking far too long to determine, which also included enforcement cases, as the process was lengthy. The Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC) might have caused delays and officers might well be following procedures but control needed to be reinstated. Also, some of the officer reports and plans were inaccurate.

 

N Richardson and A Marx (Development Management Service Manager) defended the work of their planning colleagues. There had been substantial delays to the SAC applications, but officers were working through the backlog. Planning Services was required to turn around an application as quickly as possible and officers worked to statutory deadlines but if the applicant had to be asked for an extension, this would obviously add to the delay. With between 3,000 to 4,000 applications a year, mistakes were made sometimes, but officers did their best to look at all the drawings. Members needed to trust officers. The site plan in the case officer’s report was not part of the application but, if it would help, officers could put a ‘dot’ to mark the site on this plan. Officers could not influence any decision. It would also be very helpful if planning committee members could warn officers before the meeting about questions they wanted to raise, as it was quite difficult to assess a query properly during a meeting and come up with an answer.

 

Councillor M Sartin reminded members that the Working Group was only concerned with the Constitution and procedures put in place. Thus, the points raised by Councillor S Heap were more appropriate for discussions at the Joint Meeting of Development Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen, which was agreed. Councillor C C Pond commented that in his opinion the CLD2 delegation system worked satisfactorily as members could always call-in an application and therefore, supported the existing process.

 

The Working Group raised the following queries on the CLD2 delegations.

 

(a)          (A) To determine – (6) Any other application which the Head of Planning considered appropriate to be determined by members in relation to applications made by the Council.

 

Clarification was sought in relation to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.

24.

Joint Meeting of Development Management Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen - composition and function pdf icon PDF 283 KB

To reconsider the composition and function of the twice annual Joint Meeting of Development Management Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen. A report by Councillor C C Pond is attached.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor C C Pond introduced the report and commented that as tonight’s meeting had shown, there was not a simple way to raise issues on planning in an informal way. It was not a question of scrutiny as planning determination was a statutory function. The joint meeting was there to encourage smooth conduct of meetings, to troubleshoot problems that had occurred, to consider new matters (e.g. of national policy) that had arisen, and generally to facilitate the process by which members considered those planning applications where delegated decision by officers was precluded. Currently the chairmen and vice-chairmen of the planning committees were appointed at the Annual Council Meeting entirely on political lines but there needed to be a means where issues could be discussed outside of the planning committees. A slightly enlarged committee to include other group members at the joint meeting would add value in highlighting any issues. If the majority group was worried about being outvoted, then such members could be there on a non-voting basis. Their presence would be solely to facilitate good governance of the consideration of planning applications. For example, the necessity to update the Briefing Note had to be raised during a planning sub-committee last autumn. Also, how planning objections in officers’ reports were condensed was another issue. Therefore, it was a question of practicalities.

 

There were also ongoing problems encountered in the chamber which included:

·       Sound inconsistencies between those in the chamber and virtual participants on Zoom;

·       Difficulties in hearing certain planning officers virtually when physically in the chamber; and

·       Lighting levels in the chamber were too bright when on full power

 

The majority of the Working Group was in support of enlarging the joint meeting membership to include other group members, except Councillor N Bedford who thought there was no need for change and that the Working Group was a good place to discuss such issues.

 

After discussion, it was agreed that the proposal was not fully formed because more information was needed on the number of other group members that should be allowed to sit on the joint meeting of the Development Management Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen and what the scheme was about.

 

Councillor C C Pond commented that there was nothing in the Constitution on the membership of the joint meeting and if other group members were merely invited to be present at the joint meeting, then he did not think it needed to be.

 

N Boateng (Legal Services Manager/Solicitor) advised that a proposal to change the membership would have to be approved by Full Council.

 

Councillor N Bedford preferred that one additional member could be nominated by their respective Group Leader, but they should be non-voting members.

 

As the chairmen and vice-chairmen of the planning committees were automatically members of the joint meeting, G Woodhall (Democratic and Electoral Services Team Manager) advised looking at the Terms of Reference of the joint meeting to see if a change could be incorporated, if required.

 

AGREED:

 

(1)          That Councillor C C Pond would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 24.

25.

Date of Next Meeting

To note that the next meeting of the Working Group will be held on 7 April 2022 at 19.00.

Minutes:

It was noted that the next meeting of the Working Group would be held virtually on 7 April 2022 at 19.00.