Councillors at South Oxfordshire District Council have voted that their Head of Planning will now have the final say on planning applications that have been Called-In by the town’s District Councillors. This will mean that those applications recommended for refusal by Henley Town Council and asked for them to be ‘Called in’ (debated at a SODC planning meeting) will no longer take place if the Head of Planning does not accept the planning reasons.
Previously, when Henley Town Council have made a ‘Call in’ they have spoken to the Planning Officer assigned to the application about their concerns and they have gone back to the applicant to ask them to amend the plans if possible . Henley Mayor and District Councillor Ken Arlett said, “The system has worked very well over the last few years and we’ve only probably had 2 ‘Call ins’ over the past year.”
At the SODC Council Meeting the motion was put forward to give the Head of Planning full delegated powers due to Planning Officers having too much work on. Councillor Arlett put forward a motion to allow the local Councillor, Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Planning Committee to make the final decision, but this was voted down by the majority group. The debate was then stopped with a procedural motion. District Councillor and County Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said, “In middle of the debate it was stopped. This was shocking. We live in a democracy and these matters should be fully debated. To have a vote to stop debate is completely wrong. So in conclusion the rights of ward councillors and parishes have been reduced by the current SODC administration.”
At the Henley Town Council meeting this week, Councillor Arlett said, “Since the vote I’ve had a number of the SODC Councillors say to me that they regretted the way they voted.”
The process is now in place and will be reviewed at the October SODC meeting. This may affect the application for the development on Parkside woodland for 8 apartments and 3 houses proposed at 253 Greys Road which were recommended refusal by Henley Town Council and asked to be ‘called in.’