The planning application to demolish Millbrook Garden Centre for housing has been granted by Wealden District Council, to the dismay of the local councillor for Jarvis Brook who wanted the matter to be discussed at committee.
The original outline application submitted in October 2020 was for up to 33 homes, but this was amended last year down to a maximum of 27.
Last week, the local councillor for Jarvis Brook, Cllr Gareth Owen-Williams (LibDem), posted on Facebook about his intention to “call-in” the application, so that it was discussed by Councillors sitting on Planning Committee North.
All planning authorities have “delegated powers” allowing planning officers to deal with most minor and uncontroversial planning applications. (Click to see Wealden District Council’s Scheme of Delegation page 36). However in certain circumstances the Local Member can request an application goes to Committee.
However, yesterday Cllr Owen-Williams took to Facebook again to say “the [Committee] Chair has approved this application”.
Cllr Owen-Williams subsequently told Crowborough Life that he was sent an email by the officer concerned just after 6pm on Friday night asking if he wanted to “call-in” the application:
The email invited me to contact the officer for a conversation, which I always do, so, as I assumed that I’d have a couple of working days, and I was on the road all day Monday, I tried to contact her on Tuesday late morning.
She answered in the afternoon and said that she’d passed the decision to the chair of the committee because I hadn’t responded within 24 hours. This clearly made no sense as that would have been the weekend but I insisted and, in the short time I had, asked for the matter to be discussed at PCN as there are complex traffic issues.
I was told that this wasn’t a planning reason and that the committee chair had approved the application so there was nothing more I could do.Cllr Owen-Williams
Crowborough Life contacted Wealden District Council for a response. A Council spokesperson said:
All the correct procedures have been followed in this case as officers approached the local ward member with a request to grant planning permission under delegated authority and in line with the council’s own constitution and Scheme of Delegation.
There was no reply to that request within 48 hours and then no reply to a further request, so the right to determine the delegation request was escalated to the relevant committee chair.
In this case the local ward member was given more time than the 48 hours and did not reply. When he did reply, he was out of time.
It is correct that the chair of the committee agreed delegation but that was because she was persuaded there were no material planning grounds to withhold consent.
Any suggestion that the application having been agreed under delegation means the issues have not been fully and clearly aired is not correct.
It is also incorrect that “officers took away” the ability for the local ward member to call the case into committee.
All local members have the right to reserve an item for committee within 23 days of publication of the case – providing material grounds are given. In this case the local member did not do that.
As the local member had not exercised his opportunity to refer the item to committee, officers were, constitutionally, required to go to the chairman for a decision.Wealden District Council spokesperson
The decision has yet to be added to the Council’s planning website, but in due course the Officer’s Report and Decision Notice will be added to the the list of documents, see WD/2020/2164/MAO.