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Planning knowledge of Royal Borough councillors criticised

Planning knowledge of Royal Borough councillors has been described as ‘appalling’ by parish councillors.

The comments were made by Bray parish councillors Julie-Ann Glover and Nicola Marsh at a meeting on Monday, July 15.

Councillors Glover and Marsh based their opinion on a Maidenhead Area Development Management Panel meeting they attended on Wednesday, June 19.

At the meeting Cllr Glover was speaking in objection to an Oakley Green application for the replacement of a light industrial building at Tarbay Farm in Tarbay Lane.

Speaking about the reaction to her presentation, Cllr Glover said ‘I think four of them fell asleep’.

She said: “All they did was listen to the planning officer, who I felt had no interest at heart whatsoever.”

Cllr Marsh, who was also at the meeting, said the pair were left ‘absolutely speechless’.

She said: “The impression I got was the majority of councillors on that panel had not even looked at that documentation.

“I appreciate there’s a new chair to that panel and there are several new councillors on that panel but it was embarrassing.

“The lack of knowledge of basic planning law those councillors had was appalling.”

Parish councillor Nick Pellew said his experience of Windsor Area Development Management Panel was ‘exactly the same’.

He referenced an application submitted by Windsor Squash and Health club, which was on Helston Lane before it closed.

Cllr Pellew was chairman of the committee running the club ‘for the last three years of its life’.

He said: “None of them had read any of the documentation and we’d spent literally thousands of pounds putting that application together and I think it was absolutely disgraceful.

“The planning consultant was also sat there and he said he’d never seen such an appalling panel.”

They did, however, single out chairwoman Cllr Donna Stimson (Con, St Mary’s) for praise.

Cllr Glover said: “She tried to actually encourage the councillors to say something but they kept just directing it back to the planning officer and he said ‘oh, I can’t see a problem’.”

Fellow parish councillor Derek Wilson, who was chairman of the panel until he lost his seat on the Royal Borough in May, said: “It will take a long time for it to bed in; they do have mandatory training that they have to go through but it cannot teach them every-thing, it will only give them the basics, but nevertheless they have to learn.”

A Royal Borough spokeswoman confirmed that before new, and returning, councillors could sit on the panel they had to undergo mandatory training.

She explained also that paperwork for planning development management panels is sent to members five working days beforehand and they ‘have the opportunity to ask technical questions at the technical briefing before the main panel meeting’.

She added: “Members sitting on panels are supported by the head of planning and/or deputy head of planning at panel meetings alongside other senior planning officers who are experts in planning policy and have knowledge of the specific cases coming to the panel for decisions.”

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