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SKDC clash over committee probing public over planning

A move to restrict the right of councillors to quiz members of the public at planning meetings has been attacked by opposition councillors.

Ruling Conservatives on South Kesteven District council agreed at full council last week to make a trial permanent that restricted the right of councillors to quiz members of the public who gave statements at meetings of the Development Management Committee, which considers planning.

Supporters said this would make questioning more ‘relevant’ to a planning application if just the applicant, their agent or a consultant were able to be freely quizzed.

Other members of the public would only be quizzed by the chairman or vice chairman and only on matters directly relevant to the application or the ‘material facts’ stated by a public speaker.

At the meeting, Labour group leader Phil Dilks called the move a “sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

Most public speakers, he explained, welcomed being quizzed and it allowed them to clarify matters.

Independent member Paul Wood said public speakers felt excluded if they just gave a three-minute speech and were not questioned.

However, Coun Robert Reid, the deputy chairman of the development management committee said questions had to concern the “material matters” surrounding a planning application. But he said he would devise a “template” to help councillors ask relevant questions.

Development management committee chairman, Coun Martin Wilkins, who had been criticised by opposition members over his management of planning meetings, said South Kesteven allows more freedom to speak on planning matters than other councils.


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