Friday, 28 October 2011
From Press Release here
At a meeting of The Highland Council held earlier today (Thursday 27 October 2011) Members voted to reduce the current three Planning Application Committees to two - a North Planning Application Committee and a South Planning Application Committee.
The new structure will come in to affect in January next year. The membership of each PAC will be made up of two members from a four-member council ward and one member from a three-member council ward. Local Councillors will also be able to attend and have a Local Members Vote on any relevant agenda items. In order that the meetings can be webcast, both the North and the South Planning Application Committees will be held in the Council headquarters in Inverness.
Supporting the recommendations of the cross party Governance Review Group, Councillor Ian Ross, Chair of the Planning, Environment and Development Committee said: “The remit of the Group was to review performance, look for efficiencies and put forward recommendations to ensure we can provide the very best service. Financial savings were a consideration when coming to our restructuring recommendations but our primary focus was on getting the best quality of service.
“The decisions planning committees make are increasingly open to scrutiny and legal challenges. In order that Councillors come to decisions that can stand up to robust internal and external scrutiny, access to professional advice and guidance from our staff during meetings is important. Public access to how we do business and come to decisions is also vital. Webcasting allows members of the public, stakeholders, agencies and businesses to follow proceedings wherever they are. As well as being able to watch committee meetings live, archived webcasts can be watched on our website. I believe this new structure will be fit for purpose with local members still very much at the heart of decision making. Another important bonus is that meetings will be held monthly so people will find the planning application process is speeded up.”
The North PAC will involve wards 1 – 11 in Caithness, Sutherland, East Ross, the Black Isle and Skye. The South PAC will cover wards 12 – 22 in Inverness, Lochaber, Nairn and Badenoch and Strathspey. A commitment was given to monitor and review the work of the two new Committees within a 12 month period.
Members also agreed with the Governance Review Groups recommendation to consolidate the work of the Land, Environment and Sustainability Strategy Group, the Climate Change Working Group and the Community Benefits Working Group. A new Rural Affairs and Climate Change Strategy Group will come into effect from January 2012. Fifteen Councillors representing the political membership of the council will sit on this new strategy group and the chair and membership will be agreed at the December meeting of the Council.
Recommendations on the governance of the Inverness City Committee and its related working groups will be presented to the council once further work is completed.