Planning Committee

The public are able to make a short presentation to the planning committee

Fenland District Council is committed to open government and public involvement in the planning process, introducing public participation at its Planning Committee meetings in 1997. This guidance explains the procedure for speaking at the meeting.

Applications determined by the Planning Committee

The majority of planning applications are determined by officers under delegated powers. Only a small proportion are determined by the Planning Committee.  As regards to "Other" and "Minor" applications, officers will determine these applications unless:

  • FDC or Member involvement
  • Called-in by a Member (the development must be within their ward area or adjacent ward area and the Member request has been granted by the Head of Planning in consultation with the Chairman of Planning or substitute)
  • 6 or more unresolved written opinions from 6 individuals, groups or organisations are received from within the ward area or adjacent ward area which differ from the officer recommendation
  • Town/Parish views are in conflict with officer recommendation and the application is for more than 2 dwellings
  • The Head of Planning considers that the application merits committee consideration on the grounds of wider planning interests.

As regards to "Major" applications, officers will determine these applications unless:

  • FDC or Member involvement
  • Called-in by a Member (the development must be within their ward area or adjacent ward area and the Member request has been granted by the Head of Planning in consultation with the Chairman of Planning or substitute)
  • 6 or more unresolved written views from 6 individuals, groups or organisations are received from within the ward area or adjacent ward area which conflict with the officer recommendation
  • Town/Parish views are in conflict with officer recommendation
  • Statutory Consultee views are in conflict with officer recommendation
  • The Head of Planning considers that the application merits committee consideration on the grounds of wider planning interests
  • The application is recommended for refusal in which case the following procedure will apply:
    • The Head of Planning will consult the Chairman of Planning Committee and decide if the application should be determined by the Planning Committee OR the application should be determined under delegated powers by the Head of Planning.
    • If in the opinion of the Head of Planning in consultation with the Chairman of Planning Committee the recommendation is accepted, the case officer's decision will be countersigned by the Head of Planning.
    • If in the opinion of the Head of Planning in consultation with the Chairman of Planning Committee there are wider planning issues to consider the matter will be placed on the Planning Committee agenda.

Applications on the Committee's agenda

Planning Committee meets usually every five weeks on a Wednesday at 1.00pm. Meeting dates for Planning Committee are available on the Council's website and the agenda for a particular meeting is published on the Council's website at least five working days before the date of the meeting. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, meetings may occur more regularly than five weeks.

Development Services notify the public of the applications to be considered at a committee meeting by sending notification letters in advance of the relevant meeting.

Do I have to attend a committee meeting to make my views known to committee?

No, the Council includes within committee reports, a summary of all representations received from the public. 

You may want to participate if you disagree with the officer recommendation given in the committee report but you can participate to support a recommendation. You can also make representations to say that officers/members have not yet grasped all the relevant information.  It is important to note that officer recommendations are not always accepted by the committee members.

Sometimes applications cannot be dealt with as planned at committee, and/or information is received which alters the report. You can talk to Development Services or Member Services on the morning of the committee you will be attending to avoid the embarrassment of being out of date or ill informed.

When, and for how long, can I speak?

The public will be limited to a single presentation to the committee, or a number of presentations totalling a maximum of 5 minutes. For each of the two groups of speakers, that is:

  • A maximum of 5 minutes for all objectors
  • A maximum of 5 minutes for all supporters, excluding the applicant and agent who have a separate 5 minutes.

As there is no limit on the number of speakers in each of the two groups but a time limit on the speaking length, you may need to co-ordinate your presentation with others who want to participate to ensure that the presentation is effective.

Following your presentation, the committee may ask you questions of fact in relation to your presentation. After you have spoken you are not able to question or interrupt other speakers, or the committee debate.

What can I say at the meeting?

You are advised to:

  • Be brief and to the point
  • Limit your views to the planning application
  • Confine yourself to relevant planning issues.

In considering a planning application, the Council has a statutory duty to have regard to the provisions of the development plan and any other "material considerations". The most common "material considerations" include the following, although the list is not exhaustive and will vary with the type of application and the site:

  • Structure and Local Plan policies
  • Government Planning Guidance
  • Planning law and previous appeal decisions
  • noise disturbance and smells resulting from use
  • residential amenity
  • loss of light, overshadowing, privacy
  • highway safety and traffic
  • design, appearance and layout
  • conservation of buildings, trees, etc.
  • risk of flooding
  • landscaping
  • disabled persons' access.

Issues usually not relevant in reaching a decision vary but will include:

  • matters controlled under Building Regulations or other non-planning laws, e.g. structural stability, drainage, fire precautions etc.
  • private issues between neighbours e.g. land/boundary disputes, damage to property, private rights of way, covenants etc.
  • developers' morals or motives
  • possible future development
  • loss of view
  • loss of property values
  • personal matters
  • problems arising from the construction period of any works, e.g. noise, dust, construction vehicles, hours of work etc.

You should not make derogatory, defamatory, racist, sexist or other remarks about other people. Such comments will leave you open to legal action.  The Chairman has the right to stop the proceedings or eject the speaker.

Can I use maps, photographs or supporting documents to illustrate my point?

Development Services do provide a presentation to the committee using maps, plans and photographs that accompany a planning application to enable the committee to have a better understanding of the proposal.

There is no reason why you are not able to provide additional documents, but please contact Development Services or Member Services the day before the committee meeting to ensure that appropriate facilities will be available.

If your maps, plans or photographs are available electronically, they will need to be provided to Development Services or Member Services in Powerpoint format to ensure that these documents are loaded onto the Council's laptop for electronic display. You will not be able to use your own laptop within your presentation to committee.

Any presentation material in Powerpoint format including prepared speeches, photographs, plans, etc should when possible be forwarded to Development Services and Planning Committee members no later than Noon on the day before the meeting.  No material, except photographs, is permitted to be tabled for members at the committee meeting, unless the permission of the Chairman has been sought.

What is the order of speaking on each application?

Each application will be presented as follows:

  1. Initial planning officer presentation
  2. Local Council presentation
  3. District Councillor presentation
  4. Objectors - any number of speakers with up to 5 minutes in total
  5. the applicant, agent and any supporters - 5 minutes in total for any number of supporters, a separate 5 minutes in total for the applicant and agent
  6. Member debate
  7. Decision.

The Chairman will consider whether to deal with items of business where the public and/or a Local Council is participating in advance of other business at the meeting. The agenda may not, therefore, be dealt with in its published order.

However, you should attend the meeting when it begins irrespective of where your items is listed on the Agenda. Once it has been considered you may stay or leave the meeting as you wish.

Please note that District Councillors with a personal and prejudicial interest in an item being discussed may speak at the Planning meeting. They must declare the interest and its nature before the item is discussed, then make their presentation (for the same length of time as a member of the public, ie  5 minutes).  Once the councillor has finished their presentation, they must leave the room until that item has been concluded.

Will a decision be made at the meeting?

Most applications are determined at the meeting. Members may defer a decision for further information or a site visit.  You will be able to speak when the application is re-considered.

How do I arrange to speak at the committee?

Members of the public must confirm their intention to participate at meeting by:

This must be received by no later than noon on the day before the meeting.  The details that need to be provided are:

  • the application reference number and its address
  • the name of the person attending
  • in what capacity the person is attending (ie objector or supporter)
  • contact details of the person attending.

Please note that the registration of the right to speak can only be done in this way, and the Development Services Team will not register such rights. You cannot register your right to speak before you receive the notification letter from the Council that the case is to be reported to a particular meeting or before the agenda appears on the Council's website.  A person's intention to speak at a meeting must be registered in this way, irrespective of any previous requests to speak.  If in doubt, please contact the Member Services Team.

A written acknowledgement (by e-mail) will be sent to the person registering their right to speak informing him/her that they are on the list of speakers for that committee. 

What happens at the committee meeting?

A planning officer will introduce the application. The Chairman will ask the speaker for the application to present their case. The Chairman will ask the speaker(s) to stop speaking on precisely 5 minutes, but you will be given a warning about 30 seconds that the 5 minutes is up.  The speaker may then be asked by councillors questions of facts about their presentation and the application.  This process is repeated for all speakers for an application.

Once the public speakers have presented their cases, the committee will debate the application and reach its decision.

A record of what is said at the meeting is taken and reproduced in the minutes. Please note that the minutes are not a verbatim record of the meeting.  These minutes will be published to the Council's website within 10 working days of the date of the meeting.  The minutes will be confirmed by the Committee at the next meeting to confirm that the committee agrees that they are true and accurate record of what took place at that meeting.  The minutes will be signed by the Chairman as a true and accurate record.

Please note that there may be some restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 requirements.

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