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GBC Planning Committee Changes

31st March 2017

We bring to your attention a report that is circulating within Guildford Borough Council  that proposes a reduction in the number of Councillors who make up the membership of the Planning Committee from 23 to 12. In addition, the report also reviews a number of processes and procedures associated with the business of the Planning Committee.

Whilst encouraging good local governance, The Guildford Society, along with other local amenity groups, residents association and some retired councillors have great disquiet about these changes, especially coming at a time when Guildford and its borough face many planning challenges. These concerns are being voiced in articles, letters and opinion pieces in the local media including The Surrey Advertiser and the online Guildford Dragon.

To give you some background:  A Councillor working group was set up in November 2016 to review the size of the current Planning Committee, with the main remit to submit proposals for a smaller Committee. Comparisons have been made with committee structures for other local authorities and the group had determined there would be real benefit in GBC adopting their proposals.

When applying the requirement for political balance, the numerical allocation of seats to the political groups on a committee comprising 12 councillors would be as follows:

  • 8 Conservatives 

  • ​2 Liberal Democrats 

  • 1 Labour 

  • 1 Guildford Greenbelt Group 

The claimed benefits from a smaller group would include:

  • A skilled and professional Planning Committee with more focused expert debate; 

  • More focused and efficient execution of business;
  • Ability for ward Councillors who are not Planning Committee members to address the Committee with greater freedom to speak openly and freely 

  • Opportunity to refresh some associated processes such as site visits, Office report structure; the way in which late representations are received.

Subject to the Council’s approval, the new arrangements for the smaller Planning Committee should commence with effect from the new municipal year (17 May 2017 meeting).

Click here to access the GBC  Findings of the Planning Committee Review Group
Click here to access  the  GBC Executive Summary.

Our Society concerns have been voiced in letter from our Chairman , Julian Lyon, to GBC councilors  from which an extract is reproduced below.  We encourage you study his letter in full , to also look in detail at the GBC proposals and to consider the potential effect on your locality and to make your views known to your local  ward councillors who are your voice within the local authority.

Extract from our Chairman’s letter to GBC Councillors  Click here to read in full.

There are more than 50% of people in Guildford Borough who do not have a parish council to look after local interests. We rely on some active neighbours, residents' groups and local issue groups like The Guildford Society, and our ward councillors (all of whom sacrifice large amounts of time on our behalf) to come up with ideas, scrutinise applications and to ensure the delivery of crucial services and democracy. >>

>> The solution, it seems to me, lies in the reconnection of local communities and Councillors with the planning strategies and processes that have seemed so remote over the past decade or so, and the Localism Act has provided some solutions, as Burpham has found.