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Delegated powers could lead to virtual planning meetings

Richard Whitehouse

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Concerns have been raised over a decision by Cornwall Council to let unelected officers decide whether developments should be granted planning permission.

Due to the coronavirus crisis the authority has scrapped all planning committee meetings and has decided instead to allow planning officers to use what are known as delegated powers to determine applications.

But councillors are concerned that this is taking out the democratic process and have called for the council to consider holding “virtual” committee meetings using video conferencing technology.

Conservative councillor Mark Formosa claimed the change in determining planning applications was “dangerous” and has launched a petition calling for a rethink. He said he was hoping it would get cross-party support.

"I consider it a very dangerous move to put all this power in the hands of a single officer, an officer who, in turn, is passing on those powers to people lower down the hierarchy," he said.

Cornwall Council said it is "working hard to keep the planning service operating effectively in the face of unprecedented challenge" and would be exploring ways to enable virtual meetings.