Knowing the meeting rules

PUBLISHED: 11:35 19 January 2006 | UPDATED: 09:27 06 May 2010

Re Meeting farce by a disgusted ratepayer of Stevenage. I write in reply to the above letter printed in the Stevenage Comet issue January 12. Firstly, I was not aware that we had any ratepayers in Stevenage or in fact anywhere in the country since we all

Re Meeting farce by a disgusted ratepayer of Stevenage.

I write in reply to the above letter printed in the Stevenage Comet issue January 12.

Firstly, I was not aware that we had any ratepayers in Stevenage or in fact anywhere in the country since we all pay council tax and have done for several years. 1989 was the last year anyone paid rates.

I raise this because the person who wrote the letter insists that everything should be correct.

The planning committee which I chair was being asked to consider a change in condition to a planning permission granted on September 6, 2005 to raise the height of visibility splays from 0.5m to 1m to serve both accesses to a proposed new development. The matter was a technical highways issue, so officers from the county council (who are the highways authority, not Stevenage Borough Council) had been asked to attend.

Members of the public are allowed to submit written representation to the meeting which is then given to all members. One member of the public may speak against the proposal and can represent the views of others if necessary. They may speak for three minutes. This was allowed at the meeting.

A planning meeting is not a meeting where members of the public can interject or ask questions (hence the written representation plus one speaker).

We make decisions based on planning law and conditions and not what we might personally feel or think. We have to approve or refuse and application using planning conditions,. This is because if we refuse an application, there is a right of appeal. If the appeal is upheld the council can be liable for costs, which are all paid for from council tax payers money and could be substantial.

The borough council planning officers are a highly professional team who spend many hours working with applicants trying to explain why certain conditions have to be imposed on planning applications and trying to achieve satisfactory objectives within planning law.

The borough meets all of its targets and has very few appeals and an even smaller number of appeals that are overturned. We give the public maximum opportunity through consultation to raise any objections. We are now being accused of giving inaccurate information.

We cannot have outbursts by members of the public who have had the procedures explained to them beforehand by officers and by myself at the beginning of the meeting.

The outburst at this meeting continued after I had re-explained the rules and caused an adjournment of more than 10 minutes while once again our officers tried to make the members of the public aware of the correct procedures.

Pugnacious - dictionary definition: "given to fighting, combative, quarrelsome". I hardly think this was the correct use of the word. I tried clearly and quietly many times to explain the rules that govern the meeting, and as a last resort had to adjourn the meeting. The final step would have been to hold the meeting without members of the public being present. In the end this final step was not necessary, and we were able to make a decision with the public present.

Councillors are elected to represent the views of all electors and to abide by a local code of conduct for councillors and to do our best for the whole of the town. We do know who puts us in our position and who can remove us. Our record for improving all facilities in Stevenage is there for all to see, both in housing, employment, transport, community, planning and recreation. I am sorry that the person concerned did not get the outcome they wanted, but all planning decisions have to be made on planning law and not personal preferences.

Cllr Joan Lloyd, Chairman of planning and development, Stevenage Borough Council

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