The council was forced to defend holding planning advisory group meetings in private this week.
Previously Horsham District Council’s Strategic Planning Advisory Groups were held in public, but the last few have recently been cancelled.
Now Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater), appointed cabinet member for living and working communities in April this year, has admitted that she has formed a new Planning Policy Advisory Group (PPAG), which debates housing policy behind closed doors.
She explained: “Since becoming the cabinet member for living and working communities, I have realised that we need to be able to have a more open and frank debate at our Strategic Planning Advisory Group meetings. I have therefore decided that we will no longer be holding SPAG meetings in public, as per other advisory groups of Horsham District Council.
“My advisory group will discuss evidence and the formulation of policy, which will be recommended to the cabinet and/or council for full debate and approval later in public, which also allows for public speakers if necessary.
“Additionally, I have decided to rename the advisory group Planning Policy Advisory Group to recognise its new focus in developing planning policy.”
A report on HDC’s draft Local Development Framework, which will set out where and how many houses are built in the next 20 years, is due to be presented to the council on July 25.
When Mrs Vickers became the cabinet member in charge of housing, she emphasised the need for community involvement in the planning system.
She has championed the production of Neighbourhood Plans, where parishes are encouraged to draw up a document to help inform planning policy in their villages.
What do you think?
Should the advisory group meetings be held in public or private? Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For reaction see Thursday’s County Times.