Agenda item

Stephen Conway has asked the Executive Member for Planning and Enforcement the following question:




The Council, and therefore the local council-tax payer, is faced with a significant bill thanks to the large number of appeals that major developers are submitting when their applications are refused, as we can see from the Executive's agenda. Will the Executive support a cross-party approach to government to secure a re-balancing of the planning system to limit the ability of large developers to submit repeated appeals that they have the money to sustain but which cost the Council a great deal in legal fees?



I am sure you know my profile by now that I do have cross party engagement for the Local Plan that I am running at the moment. 


I support a “cross-party approach to government to secure a re-balancing of the planning system to limit the ability of large developers to submit repeated appeals”.  I have got one that has ended today in Johnson Drive and that is three times that that has gone through the appeals process.  We can add this to the substantial list of lobbying of Government undertaken over the last few years.


As you know the Council is committed to robustly defending its position at appeal with this approach but it is a costly. The immediate problem is the number of speculative appeals and I have it upon good authority that we are probably at a record level for Wokingham and I can go into more details if you want about certain areas but we have got some very big appeals going.  The number of those appeals equates to about 750 homes. 


But I am sure you would agree that we need to put our best foot forward and we need to engage the best and we need to get the best defence.  By all means cross party I have no issue with that.  If anybody wants to come and talk about any of these appeals or give us any advice or help or in any engagement they want I welcome that on all of the appeals.  If you want all the appeals I can list them out tonight as I go through these on a weekly basis.  


Government ministers have made it very clear to us that the way forward to prevent planning appeals is through having an up to date local plan and this is why we are preparing that document as you know and that is a cross party group that we run. While preparing this, it is important that we continue the best approach to defend unwanted development.


Supplementary Question

I welcome that response first of all.  I welcome your commitment to add this to our many issues on which we are lobbying Government.  I think what I am hoping we might be able to get to is a position where we have some mechanism in place which encourages, if I can put it that way, major developers to go for negotiation rather than straight to appeal.  They can afford repeated appeals but this is putting an enormous cost on the Council and therefore the council tax payer. 


If you are prepared, as I think you are, to go down this route of a cross party approach to Government on this could you undertake to contact all of the other political groups on the Council and invite them to join in this too because I think more clearly this is coming across as the Council’s view rather than the ruling Group’s view and I think that will help us a lot.


Supplementary Answer

Yes as I said I think that as you know, you now sit on the Planning Committee, and one of those that was refused by the Planning Committee is coming back to us next January and if we apply that approach there I do not know what answer we would have got different from the one that the Planning Committee delivered on that evening because, as you know, there was a lot of very interested residents.  I think we would have to think through how we would do that because if the developer has gone through that approach and it has been refused by the Council or by the Planning Committee I think we need to be very careful then inviting developers in for negotiation post-decision of the Planning Committee.  So I welcome it and I am sure there are certain situations where we can do that but I think we need to be very careful.