Agenda item

Planning Peer Review


The Committee considered the report which provided an overview of the recent Peer Review of the Council’s Planning Services undertaken by the Local Government Association. Thomas James provided a brief overview of the report and explained that the peer review had been requested from the Local Government Associations (LGA) in response to a motion agreed at Council.


The report set out ten key recommendations, which in turn had been produced into an action plan which was attached at appendix 2.


The Chairman worked through the action plan and asked Committee members if they had any amendments they would like to make at each action point. The discussion and agreed changes (in bold) are noted below.


Action Point 1

Following discussion on the ‘community ownership’ of the masterplan, it was agreed that the sentence below under the implementation column would be amended to read “Review information on the Council’s website and develop with Comms officers an overarching narrative around place making and major projects and growth planning agenda.”


Action Point 2

There were no changes to this point


Action Point 3

Members were interested in who would be putting the training programme together and commented that they would like to have some input so that it was tailored to Members needs. Some new Members felt that the Planning training provided last year was too high level, particularly for newly elected Members, although they appreciated this had been different to previous years due to the impact of the pandemic on the training provision. It was agreed to revise the text under the implementation column to read, “Develop a training programme, bespoke for Woking Borough Council, for members and officers and to signpost online training resources. To identify mentoring opportunities for chair of planning committee”


Action Point 4

The Committee were supportive of this point and commented that it was important that they had the opportunity to meet all Planning Officers at the initial training sessions.


Action Point 5

The Chairman reported that this action point had already progressed positively, and she hoped that a clear forward plan for items coming to committee would continue to improve.


Action Point 6

It was agreed that the text under the action column should be “All parties and committee members recognise the need that planning committee decisions must be non-political and to make individual planning judgements”


Action Point 7

The Chairman questioned whether the reference to the Masterplan in this action should be added to action point 1 where the masterplan was also referenced. Councillor D Roberts commented that this was a complex point as there were some things that could be changed at this point and some that could not; he was unsure we should be asking for community ownership of the masterplan at this point. The Chairman commented that more detail from recommendation 7 should be included in this action point, particularly reference to the residents panel and community engagement. Giorgio Framalicco commented that Members could choose to add further wording, but he did not think this was necessary. Members agreed to update the wording in the implementation column, so the last sentence would read “Implement the agreed engagement objectives set out in the emerging Corporate Plan, particularly focussed on the wider planning agenda”.


It was also greed that under the action column, the last sentence should be amended to read “Continue work, and build on community engagement and accessibility”


Action Point 8

The Chairman commented that there should be an IT champion appointed to ensure the website was user friendly. It was agreed to update the wording in the sentence under the implementation column to read “The Council has a dedicated webpage setting out what support it could provide to help Neighbourhood Forums prepare Neighbourhood Plans; this should be signposted from our website in a user-friendly manner. This will be regularly reviewed to bring it up to date.”


Action Point 9

There were no changes to this point and it was already being progressed.


Action Point 10

There were no changes to this point.


Action Point 11

There were no changes to this point


Action Point 12

There were no changes to this point


Action Point 13

It was agreed to update the wording in the sentence under the implementation column to read “Liaise with ICT to develop a plan to redesign the planning and Planning Policy website in consultation with all stakeholders


Action Point 14

There were no changes to this point


Action Point 15

It was agreed to update the wording in the sentence under the action column to read “Produce guidelines for the public on planning committee procedures and decision making, available in advance”


Action Point 16

Members asked to add Adam Walther’s name to the lead officer column.


Action Point 17

There was some discussion regarding the call-in procedure and whether by doing so the member was pre-determining the outcome of an application. Giorgio Framalicco commented that a Councillor must make their decision on an application only after they had heard the whole argument. When you call in an application, you must remain open minded until this discussion had concluded. Calling in a decision simply meant that a Member thought it warranted further debate, not that they necessarily disagreed with the recommendation. It was agreed that the call-in procedure could be an area that was focussed on in the training.

It was agreed to update the wording in the sentence under the implementation column to read “In liaison with the chair of planning committee, review and improve the call-in procedure within agreed timeframes.” It was also agreed that a date would be added to the timeframe column – April 2023.


Action Point 18

It was agreed to update the wording in the sentence under the action column to read “Make data accessible in digital format with good access to GIS skills and GIS training where needed.”


Action Point 19

It was agreed to update the wording in the sentence under the action column to read “Make the next local plan digital, not document based”


There was some discussion on how frequently the Planning Committee wanted to be updated on the action plan with some suggesting quarterly was too frequent. It was agreed for the update to remain quarterly for the time being and it was noted moving forward the update was likely to be brief as it would be an update on the progress made.



That  (i)    the action plan be approved, subject to the amendments agreed above; and

          (ii)   a quarterly update on the action plan be presented to the Planning Committee.

Supporting documents: