BurbageCllr David Burbage, the Leader of Windsor and Maidenhead says it’s time to put localism back into planning,  In this piece, he describes how parish councils in the Royal Borough are going to be offered decision making powers for local planning applications.

It can be quite hard to get enthusiastic and energetic council candidates of all ages and abilities to stand for local authority council seats, and the story is even more true for parish councillors.

But on parish and town councils, they do tend to have councillors that look at every planning application in their area, and send a recommendation to the Borough’s planners as input.

Imagine their disappointment, then, after sending their recommendation to the local authority it gets overturned by an officer within the planning department, operating under the delegated powers that see 90% of planning applications decided upon by officials.

Given the struggle to find parish councillors, it isn’t very encouraging that when they do put their time into decision making, the local authority can simply operate built-in rules to undemocratically overturn or question their decisions on a regular basis.

This has to stop. But all is not lost.

In Taunton Deane in 1995 the local authority decided to enter into agreements with parish councils to put in place – for smaller applications – decision making powers.

The basis of that agreement lays out the kinds of applications, a scheme of delegation, that the parish shall determine.

I’ve asked for our officers to bring forward proposals for a similar scheme, planning to implement – for any parishes who may wish to enhance their role – early in 2012.

Larger applications currently fully considered by local authority members are not affected in any way by this system, and local elected Members can still call in contentious applications to the Borough planning panel.

Applicants would still be able to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, but as I will discuss in my next article, if the local authority had the legal power to convene binding Planning Appeals panels, we could easily take on that role ourselves.

Parish devolution delivers real power to the lowest possible level, something which should find favour with politicians across the spectrum.