Why the Development Management Committee makes site visits, who can attend and what happens during a visit.
Occasionally our Development Management Committee makes a site visit before deciding a planning application.
Reason for a site visit
The only reason for a site visit is for members of the committee to familiarise themselves with the planning application site before making a decision.
They will not make a decision during the site visit. They decide on the application at the next meeting of the Development Management Committee.
The visit does not have to be publicised or open to the public. This is because it is not a legally constituted meeting under the Local Government and Access to Information Acts.
The visit is a chance for councillors to see the site officially and for our planning officers to explain the planning application to them.
They will be able to see the site layout, its boundaries, physical features and constraints. They will note the general characteristics of the site, how it fits in with the surrounding area, the use of nearby land and look at any relevant highway matters.
The visit is not somewhere to debate the application or to receive representations.
How we organise site visits
We organise site visits at the request of:
- The Development Management Committee
- The Head of Planning, after consulting the chairman or vice-chairman of the committee. This will happen if it could unnecessarily delay a planning decision to wait for the next committee meeting
At the start of the council's year, we give all councillors a list of potential dates on which site visits could take place.
The committee will only agree to visit a site where there is a good reason for members to see it before making a decision.
Who can attend a site visit
Normally, the Development Management Committee and local ward councillors will attend, but the visits are open to all councillors.
The relevant officers will also be there to explain the proposal and answer any questions.
The applicants, their agent or the owner of the site can attend to organise access to the land and buildings. We may also ask them to provide factual information.
What happens during a site visit
Exactly what happens during a visit will depend on the nature of the site and the planning proposal. But generally the following procedure should apply:
- The site visit will not begin until the chairman arrives and officially starts the visit. If the chairman is unable to attend, the vice chairman will take charge. In the absence of both, the most senior councillor present will do so. All those present will be recorded
- Councillors, officers and others attending the visit should stay together throughout and not break into smaller groups
- Councillors should not attend a site visit if they have a clear and substantial interest
- We will expect applicants, their agents and other interested parties to keep a distance between themselves and councillors and officers during the site visit. This is so that there can be no allegations of impropriety or undue influence made at a later date
- Officers will explain the proposal and point out any important features
- Councillors may question officers about factual matters. If the officers cannot answer at the time, they will try to find the information after the visit and before the next meeting of the Development Management Committee
- Councillors should not openly express their views on the application during the site visit. Councillors and officers should not discuss the proposal, particularly with the applicants. Councillors should only ask questions about points that need clarification
- If a councillor is unable to attend the visit, he or she can arrange to see the site with the applicant or agent. In these cases, we ask the applicant or to follow the same procedure with the individual councillor as on the formal site visit. They should also avoid any discussion on the merits of the application