COUNCILLORS may have been unaware of the consequences when they voted to give greater decision-making powers to staff.

Elwyn Vaughan, the chairman of Powys County Council’s democratic services committee, Councillor Elwyn Vaughan made the claim after continued criticisms of how delegated decisions are being taken on planning applications.

In January, the committee recommended changes – which were subsequently voted through by councillors – to the way decisions are taken over planning matters.

That has led to chicken farm planning applications being decided by planning officers rather than committee, bringing criticism from a number of parties in recent weeks.

Montgomeryshire Labour Party is the latest group to criticise the changes.

They said: “The changes were presented to councillors in a document with over 100 pages.

“Planning applications requiring an environmental impact assessment are significant developments where there is a higher risk to our environment.

“By their nature, they are more likely to require greater scrutiny and public consultation.

“It would seem that with these changes, much of this public scrutiny and the possibility of full local consultation may have been side-lined.”

Cllr Vaughan said: “It’s obvious that there is a lot of disquiet on this issue.

“I think it wasn't realised at the time how big an effect this would have on the planning process. I feel we need to review this issue to ensure transparency.”

County Times:

Cllr Vaughan said people had expressed concerns to him about a lack of information on planning applications happening in their community, and that many more decisions were being made by just a planning officer.

“These are genuine concerns, ” said Cllr Vaughan.

The only decisions being made by planning committees are:

  • Major applications made by Powys Council or affecting its property
  • Applications submitted by a councillor or staff
  • Departures from the development plan
  • Applications referred to the committee by a senior planning officer

The authority has stressed that the decision taken in January had “followed a democratic process”.

In March the call-in procedure that allows councillors to bring applications to the planning committee was suspended for six months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent weeks the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales and groups of campaigners against chicken farms have highlighted the issues and feel effectively that they are being “shut out” of the planning process.

They have called for a “moratorium” on chicken farm planning application so that the affects these have on the environment can be done.