PLANNING committee members have been told to pass on correspondence from the public, that follows decisions made at meetings, to staff in the planning department.

This is to ensure that any complaints or responses to people are co-ordinated.

Planning committee members were told at their last meeting on Thursday, December 5, of the need to be careful in case they get mired in legal difficulties.

Powys County Council’s (PCC) planning development manager, Peter Morris, discussed the issue with councillors.

Mr Morris, said: “I’m aware you get lots of emails before and after committee meetings which made me start reading the protocol.

“The protocol is quite clear around this when you have emails or correspondence prior to committee, you direct it through myself to the department.

“So that we become aware of it.

“I’m aware that you receive correspondence after committee, it’s not clear what the protocol is.

“My view is probably it should be the same process directed through us officers.”

Mr Morris said that replies to people would be written by him sent out in the name of planning committee chairman, Cllr Karl Lewis (Conservative – Llandinam).

Cllr Roger Williams (Liberal Democrat – Felinfach) said: “If we send them in, do we get to see the reply back?

Mr Morris, replied: “Yes”

“What I don’t want is different responses coming from each member, it needs to be done in a coordinated way.

“if you’re happy what I will do is write a response on behalf of you coming through the chair and you will all be copied in.”

Cllr David Selby (Liberal Democrat – Newtown Central) said: “Often the response that comes in after the meeting is criticising the decision.

“Either a process has not been followed or that the information supplied by planning officers is incorrect.

“That’s what we as members of the planning committee are being asked to comment on, so I would need to be comfortable that there is a way for those complaints to be addressed?”

Cllr David Price (Independent – Llanafanfawr) added :  “There are exceptions.

“If a committee member has acted as a local member, I think they are perfectly entitled to respond to someone from within their ward.”

Cllr Price added that someone who complains and contacts all councillors and gets no response could say in future: “none of them bothered to respond.”

“It puts us in a difficult situation,” said Cllr Price.

Mr Morris added: “One part of my job is dealing with complaints, it’s in their interest for people to use the complaints procedure.

“Ultimately they could go to the Public Services Ombudsman (For Wales) if we are found wanting.

“So I always encourage people to use that procedure.”

“We do the uttermost to be factually correct and not give committee the wrong information, but mistakes will happen, we’re only human, some things do get through from time to time.”