Agenda item

Planning in Gravesham Key Principles


The Committee was presented with an initial draft of “Planning in Gravesham – The Gravesham Borough Council Planning Service Strategy 2023-2028” for discussion and comment.


The Head of Planning advised that Planning in Gravesham, set out the Council’s vision and strategic aims and objectives for the planning service in Gravesham to 2028. With the overriding aim of ensuring that a professional, courteous, consistent, and fair service was provided to all users, whilst stiving to maintain high standards.


The Chair stated that the document was in a finished state unless something substantial came up at this meeting.


In response to a Members question around the Planning departments readiness to fulfil the requirements set out within the document, the Chair provided an example of recent changes that had been made. The Chair was confident that principles and practices in Planning had changed for the better and the document was meant for the public as well as developers. Planning applications not filled out correctly would not be accepted and support would be given to people when it was needed.


Several Members raised the following points regarding the document:


  • The document required further structure with greater categorisation
  • Page 3 section 6 – Add a sentence stating that planning applications brought forward by the Council and the Councils developer company, Rosherville, would be held to the same high standards as everyone else applying for a planning application. Additionally, add in a sentence regarding rules for Councillors planning application being treated the same at Planning Committee and rules around them referring applications and declaring interests etc
  • Page 3 section 7 – Examples needed to be included in the section to contextualise what timely meant such as a response would be given in five working days etc
  • Page 4 ‘We will not’ – The wording required greater clarification on what the Council was able to explain so that the public wouldn’t be misled; decision notices often lacked detail that residents wanted but it was acknowledged they had to be written in certain ways to avoid going to appeal
  • Page 12 Complaints and Planning Officers – Amend point two: The Council will seek always to protect our Officers and Councillors from abuse and harassment in line with our policy and procedures
  • The document should be made readily available on the Councils website and include more animations which were easier to understand and highlight the key information that the public needed to be aware of
  • The role of the Planning Committee should be added to the document and include points around the political impartiality of Members on the Committee, the training Members received and the procedure for Councillor call ins
  • The document should include an area dedicated to guidance around submitting planning applications when a resident lived in a conservation area
  • Some Parish Councils believed that their own Planning Committees trumped the powers of the Councils planning Committee in Parishes; a passage should be included advising what weight would be given to the outcome of Parish Planning Committees when the Planning Committee considered the same planning application   


 In response to the points raised, the Chair explained that:


  • Page 3 section 6 – There was already rules about Councillors referring applications to the Planning Committee 
  • Page 3 section 7 – there was a section missing from the draft which was an error and would be amended
  • A user friendly document would be available on the Councils website once it was finalised
  • Explanation of the Planning Committees role was already available to the public, but it would be best placed in the strategic document


The Committee held a small discussion on the need for guidance on submitting planning applications when living in a conservation area, where current guidance was available on the website and how to signpost residents to the correct information. The Chair advised that a proper debate was required on this subject and asked that an item be submitted to a future meeting of Strategic Environment Cabinet Committee on conservation areas and the rules surrounding them.


In response to the concern around Parish Councils planning powers, the Head of Panning explained that all consultees including Parish Councils views would be taken into account when determining a planning application as required by regulations, but the decision ultimately rested with Members of the Planning Committee or Officers determining a planning application under delegated powers. That point would be made clear in the document.


An issue was raised by a Member concerning a covenant between a landowner and Vigo Parish Council; the Head of Panning explained that a covenant might say that a landowner couldn’t make any changes without Vigo Parish Councils approval but they were still able to submit a planning application to the Council for determination which superseded that covenant.


Members gave thanks to the robust Planning Department and especially Richard Hart and Shazad Ghani for all their hard work and recent successes.


The Chair thanked Members for their debate and subject to those amendments being made, received Member approval to sign off the Planning Service Strategy 2023-2028.



Supporting documents: