Councillor proposes planning changes

A DEBATE prompted by the fact that the GSK wind turbine application need not be considered by the full Angus Council, is likely to lead to a change in council rules.

At present applications which are deemed ‘major’ must be debated by the full council. If an application does not attract major status it goes only to the 10-strong development standards committee and not the 29-member full council.

The Scottish government currently set the criteria for major applications such as last week’s Kirriemuir supermarket bid which saw the full Angus Council reverse a refusal recommendation after overwhelming public support for the scheme at a town hall meeting.

But somehow the two 130-metre local wind turbines slipped through a crack in the rules to miss out on full council scrutiny.

Now Montrose Independent Councillor Mark Salmond is to place a motion before Thursday’s council meeting to change standing rules.

He said that the GSK application was the catalyst for his move, but he emphasised that this is about the wider procedures involved and not this single proposal.

Councillor Salmond added: “My personal view is that we should be looking towards making the determination of planning applications which might have a potentially significant impact on a community as openly and inclusively as possible - democracy max, if you like.

“Delving into this issue, it seemed to me that there was a possible unintentional flaw in Angus Council standing orders which is limiting democracy in the district.

“A planning application may fail the test set by the Scottish government, but might nevertheless have a very major impact on a local community where the residents believe it falls into the major category.

“These sort of applications may only come along once in a generation, but I feel that Angus Council should be in a position to make provision for these substantial exceptions.”

Councillor Salmond’s changes would allow a councillor, or group of councillors, to bring a motion to a full council meeting asking that a planning application be determined by all members of the council as a major application at a special meeting.

He went on: “Apart from the fact that it would then go before all members of the council, there are other significant factors which I believe support the ‘demo-max’ objective of my motion.

“It would allow local people a greater opportunity to get involved and speak as supporters or objectors to any application and, crucially, major application special meetings are held within the community to which they relate, as was the case in Kirriemuir where the town hall was packed.”

He continued: “The current set-up of the development standards committee also means that there is no necessity for there to be a representative on the committee of every town. Councillors from any burgh are free to ask to speak, but they cannot vote.

“Having the capacity within standing orders to elevate an application to major status before a full council meeting would mean that all councillors play a role in determining the outcome of important applications.”

“If I’m successful it would be my intention to ask my colleagues at the next full meeting of the council to give major designation to the GSK application so that it could be dealt with in such a fashion.

“If the necessary change to the current standing orders set-up is not in place then that simply cannot happen.”