A controversial proposal by Fife Council to strip planning powers from its area committees has taken a dramatic twist.
The council has issued a retraction of a previous statement which claimed there was unanimous backing for the suggested changes to the planning system.
Last week the local authority released a Press statement that there was unanimous support to remove from area committees the power to decide on contentious planning applications.
However, this week in a U-turn, the council has sent out another email to the media pointing out that the previous Press statement had been in error and it wished a retraction of the word “unanimous.”
The local authority has since apologised for any confusion caused by its error.
Commenting on the fiasco, Councillor Karen Marjoram told the Herald and Citizen:”I am deeply concerned that this article has been published. I find it hard to understand how a vote at north east area committee (almost unanimously) for the status quo, along with a vote at the planning committee, six status quo versus five for change, can even remotely be interpreted as a unanimous vote for change.
“Community councils do not want this change, and many of the elected councillors of a variety of parties do not want this change.
“The people of Fife want many things delivered more locally, such as planning, and I am yet to hear anyone asking for this kind of decision to be centralised.”
Fellow Councillor John Beare, the SNP planning and enterprise spokesman, explained that the decision to review the manner in which planning applications are considered was made on May 17 by the incoming administration, amongst a huge raft of other proposals and councillors were not not aware of the limited nature of the ‘consultation’ until recently.
He added that he understood it having now been considered by the seven area committees in Fife and the planning committee, the matter will go to the executive committee sometime next month and the debate and final decision will move to the council chamber on December 13 where it will be up to all 78 members to decide the issue.
Councillor Beare said:”I wish to confirm that the Fife-wide planning committee recommended that the current set up for making planning decisions at area committees should be retained as did the NEF area committee.”
An examination of the discussions/voting at the seven area committees indicates that 36 members supported the current system, 34 members a change to three ‘regional’ committees, while one member supported a change to two committees on an East/West model, another abstained and six were absent.
He concluded:”learly this shows that far from having ‘unanimous’ support for the Labour proposals, it is actually more like a minority position.
”I believe that the planning committee has supported a system that could mean that the determination of planning applications will continue to be taken at a local level and thereby ensure that decisions affecting local communities will be taken at the most appropriate level, a system that has worked very well to date.
“I am also aware that community councils, the length and breath of Fife, are opposing the intention to move consideration of planning applications to the ‘regional’ level.
”I understand that not one community council in Fife has yet voiced support for the removal of planning responsibilities from their local area committees.”