Horncastle Town Council to get power to say yes - or no!

Horncastle is set to become only the second town or parish council in the country to be handed the power to decide planning applications.

At the moment, responsibility rests with East Lindsey District Council where decisions are made by either councillors sitting on a planning committee or qualified planning officers.

But, from this summer, Horncastle town councillors will be able to approve or reject applications. Major projects will still be decided by ELDC.

It’s understood only one other town council in the country - Taunton Deane in Somerset - decides applications.

ELDC’s Planning Policy Team Leader Ann Shorland attended a town council meeting last Tuesday to outline the idea.

She said: “It’s quite a bold move. You (Horncastle) would only be the second town council in the country to do this.”

Ms Shorland went on to confirm Horncastle councillors would receive training. The constitutions and standing orders of ELDC and the town council will have to be changed.

She said that ELDC was keen to roll out the idea to other town and parish councils although they will need to have approved and adopted Neighbourhood Development Plans to meet the criteria.

Ms Shorland stressed decisions by the town council would not be over-ruled by ELDC and added: “Basically, you will mirror what we (ELDC) do.

“You will take on small applications at first. Obviously, we won’t expect you to decide major applications, say for 100 new homes.

“It’s baby steps, but once you feel comfortable, there’s the opportunity to develop further.”

At present, town councils can only support or oppose applications and are often ‘frustrated’ when district councils go against their views.

Coun Brian Burbidge, chairman of the town council’s planning committee, said he believed extra responsibility was a positive for Horncastle.

He said: “I am very excited about it, and I think it will be excellent for the town.

“It’s a serious commitment and we’re going to have to work hard to make it work.”

Coun Angela Birchall said that while she supported the idea, she was concerned it was another way of cash-strapped ELDC saving money.

She said: “I am not going to say anything facetious but isn’t this is all about you saving money?”

Ms Shorland said training could begin this month or in May with the scheme operational as early as June or July.

Other councils will be watching the situation closely with communities concerned about over-development. However, Horncastle’s councillors will be reminded any decisions will have to be made on national planning guidelines - rather than concerns of local residents.