Harlow Council outline how they plan to reform telling residents about planning applications
Politics / Mon 1st Nov 2021 at 01:03pm
A SENIOR Harlow councillor has detailed how they plan to reform the planning notice system.
Council across the country spend over £10 million a year publishing planning applications in printed newspapers.
Portfolio Holder for Strategic Growth, cllr Mike Hardware was responding to a question from Harlow Alliance Party member, Alan Leverett.
Mr Leverett asked:
Cllr Hardware responded:
There are three participants in the planning process: the applicants, the public and the council and council members. Our aim is to make the process as transparent and accessible as we can for all three participants.
We have already introduced measures to ensure council members are fully aware of all planning applications as they are validated – they now receive a weekly report.
We are reviewing the letters we send to residents advising them of planning applications to ensure people know what they are and not mistaken them for circulars and put them straight in the bin. The content of the letter is also being looked at, ensuring it is readable in plain English, says everything it needs to and directs people to where there is further information.
We are also considering the size of the area around a site where the letter is sent, looking to do more than the legal minimum.
Making the website more accessible so that residents can find the further information they are seeking. This could include a mapping application so they are more readily identifiable, and asking applicants to provide a summary of the application to make it easier for the public to understand the key points.
By law, a notice has to be posted near to the property and the application has to be advertised in a physical newspaper. As we are all aware, we only have the Harlow Guardian which only a few people read. We are looking at other media outlets in the town to ensure greater outreach to residents.
When an application comes before the Development Management Committee, we are considering increasing the number of speakers for larger, complex or controversial applications, allowing more residents to give their views.
And we are looking at the broadcasting and virtual involvement of people with the committee. We saw far greater involvement and engagement during lockdown when meetings were virtual which we would like to see carry on.
Once this review has concluded, the recommendations to be adopted will be announced.
The Harlow Alliance Party suggest that the Council look at creating an app, from which residents could see on a weekly basis Planning Applications received by the Council. Take a look at what Southend Borough Council have in place.
Most planning application systems allow a portal that can be read only to the public accessed from the Councils website.