Beds, Herts & Bucks

Coronavirus: Central Bedfordshire Council criticised for 'one-man' planning decisions

Central Bedfordshire Council sign Image copyright Geograph/Adrian Cable
Image caption Central Bedfordshire Council said planning decisions will be made by the chief executive officer instead of 13 councillors on the planning committee

A council has been criticised for taking planning decisions away from elected councillors during the coronavirus lockdown.

Central Bedfordshire Council said decisions will be made by the chief executive rather than the committee.

Independent councillor John Baker said "one man should not be making these very difficult decisions".

The Tory-run council said a panel of three councillors would provide recommendations to the chief executive.

Chief executive Richard Carr is to decide on a number of planning matters on 29 April, when the Development Management Committee was due to sit, including whether 120 homes in Houghton Regis should be approved.

Mr Baker said: "Despite the council being able to organise remote meetings... despite the government changing the law to allow councillors to make decisions in that fashion and despite Central Bedfordshire successfully holding meetings between councillors to discuss such issues..., for some reason the administration believe that when it comes to planning, we should remove the power for councillors to make decisions and hand them to the chief executive."

'Purely interim measure'

A council spokesman said it was continuing to "operate a functioning planning system as far and as safely as we possibly can" and will be having a trial of virtual committee meetings from next week.

"As a purely interim measure, and following government and legal advice, we have put in place as a contingency, that the chief executive might consider a number of planning applications which would normally be determined by the committee," a statement said.

The spokesman said the chief executive would not be acting alone, but would base his decisions "with the benefit of a recommendation by a three-member panel of the Development Management Committee, with input from local ward councillors".

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