We have already reported on the proposals in the Localism Bill to relax predetermination rules so that committee members can give a prior indication of their views on matters before them. The legislation would make it clear that indicating such a view would not, in itself, result in a finding that the member had a closed mind such that the decision should be found invalid.
A recent survey, reported on by Planning magazine, has found that over 60 per cent of planning committee members believe that this will enable them to state which way they will vote at committee and nearly 80 per cent believe they will have more freedom to meet stakeholders to discuss proposals.
Even when the new clause comes into effect, members will still need to be careful to consider, and ensure that it is apparent that they have considered, all relevant considerations and made their decision in accordance with their statutory duty; they can listen to applicants and objectors, and indicate their view, but must not be biased in their consideration of the issues. In reality, this may not be much different to the existing position.
While the Localism Bill intends to provide clarity on the existing position, there are still likely to be legal challenges to planning decisions on the grounds of apparent bias and fixed views. Councillors should remain cautious of this proposed "relaxation".