Horncastle town councillors prepared for more planning powers

Planning news
Planning news

Town councillors in Horncastle could have to sing for their suppers from next month - when they start deciding planning applications.

The authority will become only the second town council in the entire country to have the power to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Decisions are normally the responsibility of district or county councils - or individual planning officers who spend several years qualifying and training.

Horncastle councillors paved the way for the new powers at their September meeting when they voted unanimously to alter rules and regulations (standing orders) and approve the actual process for making decisions.

The vote followed concerns raised by Coun Angela Birchall who is a member of the planning committee and, as such, will be involved in the decision making.

Coun Birchall said she was also worried about possible accusations over ‘impartiality’ .

She said: “It is this business of do you know someone who might have made an application. It’s how well you know them. It’s a fine balance and I am finding it difficult. In a small town like this you do know a lot of people.”

Town clerk Amanda Bushell said the issue had been raised with ELDC and Fiona Martin, a vastly experienced town and district councillor, said: “It’s how well you know someone. Do you say ‘hello’ walking in the street, or do you go out for supper with them? If it’s the latter, then I suggest you stand down for that application.”

Town Mayor Coun Brian Burbidge, who chairs the planning committee, advised councillors involved in the decision making to be careful - “If you are approached by an applicant, don’t imply anything. You can listen to what they have to say but don’t make any comment.”

Initially, councillors will only be involved in minor applications and meetings will monitored by ELDC

Only councillors who have received training will make decisions.

If the ‘pilot’ proves successful, it could be rolled out in other parts of Lincolnshire - and across the country..

All planning committee members have received training - but not all town councillors.