South Oxfordshire District Councillors have voted to reinstate the planning scheme delegation which allows Henley’s District Councillors to debate and vote again on Henley planning applications that have been called-in (where the Town Council has recommended refusal/approval on an application which is different to the decision made by the SODC Planning Officer).
District Councillor, Henley Mayor, Ken Arlett said, “We used to do this 20 years ago and it used to work really well. We just managed to win the vote by 18/17. We started this (proposal) in 2019 and it’s been going and going and eventually we have won. It’s a big plus that we can now go and speak not only at the start but we can now correct things that were wrongly said by the Planning Officers.”
There is currently a back log of more than 50 planning applications which need to be referred to the SODC planning committee. Town Council Planning Committee Chair, Councillor Michelle Thomas said, “One of the reasons for this was it took such a long time for SODC to get online with meetings it wasn’t until May. It was an extraordinary long time after the lockdown in March.” Councillor Ken Arlett added, “The other problem is that Parish Councils (e.g. Rotherfield Greys) who do not have a joint District/Parish Councillors on their committees there is a delay in the call in-process.”
Town Councillor Laurence Plant commented, “It’s great to have voice at District. It is something that was out of kilter for a long time.”
Chair of SODC Planning Committee Adrian Duffield said in his letter to Henley Town Clerk, “As you will understand we are keen to restore timely decision making and to retain local decision making. At the full Council meeting on 8 October members voted in favour of continuing to allow minor applications (up to 9 dwellings) to be delegated with a further review of the operation of these town or parish trigger arrangements at a Council meeting by no later than 31 July 2021. Council also agreed that these trigger arrangements will automatically lapse unless Council votes to renew them at the review.”
Officers will continue to make contact with you where objections have been made and the officer considers that a recommendation of refusal cannot be substantiated. However, unless the relevant application has been called to the planning committee by the district councillor within 28 days of the start of the consultation period, it is likely that the decision will now be made under delegated powers.”