Planning Committee Members are given certain legal advice regarding how they should deal with planning applications.
Decision Making – Advice by Legal Officer
Members have received training on the Code of Conduct, predetermination, and
bias. Therefore Members will be aware of their responsibility to determine
planning applications on the basis of the information before them at this meeting.
Members are reminded that the decision making role must be approached with
an open mind as to the merits of the arguments for and against the application,
which you must take into account before making a final decision at the meeting
today. You must not predetermine, or be seen to have predetermined the
outcome of an application. The information you receive at today’s meeting is
therefore the basis on which you should make your decision.
There are two issues here, one is that of predetermination itself, the other is about which information should be used by Members to guide the decision making process.
Predetermination It seems somewhat anti democratic that Members cannot hold a view one way or the other prior to a meeting. Of course everyone should recognise the need to look at the evidence and if necessary change their opinion. But surely it should be possible for someone to say prior to a meeting “looking at the evidence so far, I would support/not support the proposal.”
Evidence The role of evidence is crucial to any decision-making process. But should evidence be limited to that included within any report? What if someone calls upon other evidence which they consider relevant to the proposal? Surely this should be discussed?
Debate and discussion is integral to the democratic process; evidence based policy making should be the norm. Predetermination and restricted evidence undermine these objectives.