In December 2019, as all of us were getting ready for the Christmas break and holidays, the Local Government Association were busy publishing the ‘Probity in Planning – Advice for councillors and officers making planning decisions’ – a publication that hasn’t been updated for some 7 years.
Although it may have slipped below the radar it is a very important publication and one, as I act as a Monitoring Officer for a Local Planning Authority, that I immediately sent to councillors and officers to ensure they read the same ahead of their forthcoming planning committee.
The Probity in Planning document is only guidance but it is important and an essential document to take to any planning committee whether acting for the Local Planning Authority, a developer, owner, supporter or objector. As stated in the document itself "Probity in planning is about ensuring that decisions on plan making and planning applications are undertaken, on behalf of communities, in a fair, impartial and transparent way."
Probity in Planning is written mindful of judicial decisions and ombudsman complaint outcomes and has been contributed to by councillors and officers. It deals, as well as an overview of the planning system, with the following elements in detail - councillor and officer conduct, registration and disclosure of interests, predisposition, predetermination or bias, lobbying of and by councillors, discussions before a decision is taken, officer reports, public speaking at planning committees, decisions which differ from an officer’s recommendation, committee site visits, reviewing past planning decisions and the outcomes, complaints and record keeping.
I cannot recommend highly enough that everyone involved in planning reads Probity in Planning and no doubt Local Planning Authorities will be engaged in training all those involved in planning committees accordingly. In addition I am sure that applicants, developers and objectors will be using the Probity in Planning document to tackle Local Planning Authorities on their officer reports and conduct of all at planning committees.