Councillors to consider new rules over lobbying on planning applications
Thursday, 15 January 2015 1 Comment by Claire
EDDC’s standards committee will debate proposed new rules on lobbying which would mean that planning committee members must disclose “significant” lobbying.
The matter, which will be discussed at Tuesday’s standards committee meeting, has been rumbling around for years, as I have been pursuing the issue with some alacrity, but there appears to have been some reluctance to agree to my suggestions of having an item on planning committee agendas for councillors to declare whether they have been lobbied on planning applications.
I lodged a motion about a year ago, after I had no luck at getting the standards committee to address the issue previously. Here is the account of that motion, which caused much confusion among the Conservative group - http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/but_what_is_lobbying_confusion_breaks_out_over_motion_to_encourage_greater
The thorny topic was then bounced to the standards committee, which chewed it around for several meetings, before this report was published in time for Tuesday’s meeting.
The report with Tuesday’s agenda papers states: “The Members at Development Management Committee currently make individual declarations of interest at the beginning of meetings. These declarations most usually cover personal interests under the member Code of Conduct. If a member has been subject to significant lobbying, and that has not been noted in the committee report (perhaps because it has happened after the report was prepared) then a simple declaration could be made to that effect at the meeting if members consider it would add value to the process.”
This is an excellent step forward. After the lengthy police investigation into the activities of former Cllr Graham Brown (which has since been dropped) I do think that the council needs to go that extra mile to counter any negative perceptions and suspicions of its planning process.
There will probably need to be a more tightly defined meaning of “significant” but the two years of pushing to get a bit more transparency at EDDC on lobbying on planning matters was worth it.
The matter will be discussed at next Tuesday’s (20 January) standards committee meeting at 10am. Here’s the agenda - http://new.eastdevon.gov.uk/media/703632/200115-combined-standards-agenda.pdf