Portsmouth to up how many councillor objections it takes to stop a planning applications in radical new plan

THE number of objections required for a planning application to be scrapped by councillors will be doubled in a bid to reduce a nine-month backlog.

By Joshua Wright
Thursday, 28th July 2022, 4:55 am

Despite concerns the move would create a 'democratic deficit', Portsmouth City Council cabinet member for planning policy Lee Hunt agreed the changes to the constitution on Tuesday.

He said he expected the decision to increase the number of public representations opposed to a planning officer’s recommendation from three to six would cut the planning committee's waiting list of applications 'in half'.

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'The first thing I did when I came into this new role [as cabinet member for planning policy in May] was to look at the backlog,' he said. 'No one can escape the pressure there.

'When I was thinking about this I took into account that councillors can still refer applications so there is always that route for the public still.'

The report had also recommended the planning committee meets more frequently but Cllr Hunt said there 'simply is not the budget' for that with it expected to cost an extra £250,000 in council officer time.

'The application of the current scheme of delegation has resulted in a backlog of cases awaiting committee consideration as the frequency of committee meetings and the size of the agenda - and resultant length of meetings - are limited by practicality and resource,' it said.

But it also estimated the cost of increasing the number of meetings from 16 to 24 this year would cost £115,000 in planning officer time on top of legal officers who spend an average of three full days preparing for each meeting.

The recommendations were made in response to concerns over the size of the backlog with more than 100 applications waiting for a committee decision. Half of these are applications to increase the size of HMOs.

Conservative opposition spokesman Ryan Brent said increasing the frequency of planning committee meetings was 'wise' but said he had a 'severe hesitation' about changing the constitution.

Labour spokeswoman Judith Smyth, who is also the chairwoman of the planning committee, said 'reluctantly' that she supported the move.