Anger at behaviour of T&W Plans Committee Chairman

As an update regarding the above, at the Plans Committee on 15th July 2015, when considering the draft minutes of the meeting held on 24th June 2015,

i.e. the meeting where the behaviour of the Chairman (Cllr. Minor) had annoyed/offended many residents, the Chairman was asked to clarify two points.
He confirmed that the visit on the bus by Plans Committee in February 2012, was to ascertain which of the supermarkets sites was best placed to access the town centre i.e. it was not to walk round the TWC/2011/0871 Station Road ‘ greenfield open space’ or the land for the proposed superstore where fencing had been erected the month before by T&W.
As regards the letters of complaint about his behaviour at the meeting on 24 June 2015, he said to the effect that he was aware of details on the ‘Save Newport Facebook’ site and that in future he would ’ be stricter’. Quite what he intends by this was not explained but good to know T&W do read the views expressed on the SNC Facebook and website.
Below is a composite of responses received so far by residents who sent in Formal Complaints to T&W about the behaviour of the Chairman. If you have received a response different to the below or with any additional information, then place forward to savenewport@gmail.com

Composite of responses :-

Influencing the voting on the proposed site visit/ intimidation of other members of the Planning Committee;
Planning committees are often meetings where controversial issues are discussed. They are controversial because opinion is often divided, and often polarised both within the committee and with the public/ applicants attending the meeting. In that atmosphere, we expect members of the committee, including the Chairman, to be robust and to be able to see beyond how an argument or point of view is expressed and look at the substance of what is said and make decisions accordingly. In this case I understand that the voting patterns are aligned with the views of members as expressed on the night with, some members voting against the application and some members voting for the application. There is nothing that suggests that any member changed his or her view on the basis of the way that the chair made his comments.

Robust debate is part of the democratic process. I note your comments about the need for a chair to be unbiased and impartial however, I feel that perception is very much in the eye of the beholder on this one. It is important to remember that this application had been considered in some detail previously and the Planning Committee had approved it. The key issue in bringing the application back to Planning Committee was the requirement for the committee to consider the implications of the authority having a 5 year land supply on the planning application.

In respect of the debate about a site visit I am told by officers attending that the Chair certainly expressed his view forcefully. It would of course have been of concern if he had not held a vote about the site visit but I understand that he did.

Lack of relevant officer advice; and
Officers attending Planning meetings are there to support the comprehensive report that goes out with the Agenda and to provide further advice and support, if required, to help members reach reasonable decisions. Their advice is generally restricted to advice on planning law and planning policy. I would only ever expect them to intervene in a debate to comment upon a factual inaccuracy if it was sufficiently material that misinterpretation could risk the validity of the decision being considered at the time. The issues that you say the officers did not “correct” did not fall within this category.

It is worth noting, in respect of the site visit in 2012, that councillors and officers were advised by the Police not to leave the bus. This advice was given to Michael Barker, Assistant Director: Planning Specialist, by telephone whilst he was on the bus.

Returning the application to Planning Committee.
You appreciate that an application for planning permission is an important decision-making responsibility of the Council; a refusal can severely limit a landowner’s right to deal with their land in the way that they otherwise want to deal with it. Conversely a grant may have a significant impact upon surrounding landowners. The Planning system has to constantly balance these competing interests.

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