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Council may cut meetings to save money

PUBLISHED: 09:36 25 February 2009 | UPDATED: 08:00 01 August 2010

A DISTRICT council has come under criticism after it emerged that it was looking to squeeze three planning meetings into two in a bid to make savings.

South Norfolk Council currently stages monthly east, south west and north west area planning committees at venues across the district.

SOUTH Norfolk District Council has come under criticism after it emerged that it was looking to squeeze three planning meetings into two in a bid to make savings.

It could mean people from the Loddon area wanting to hear planning applications affecting them will have to go to Long Stratton to do so.

South Norfolk currently stages monthly east, south west and north west area planning committees at venues across the district.

But councillors are being asked to reduce the number of meetings and bring them all under one roof, which would save the local authority more than £18,000 a year.

Andrew Gregory, director of planning, housing and the built environment, said the current three-committee system, which has been running since 1996, was popular with applicants, agents and residents. However, staging meetings at Loddon, Wymondham and Costessey had resource and cost implications.

Members of the council's planning overview sub-committee are being recommended to approve proposals next week to reduce the number of planning committees from three to two and to move all of its new east and west area meetings to South Norfolk House at Long Stratton.

Mr Gregory said that a “disadvantage” of the move would mean that committees would deal with more applications and longer meetings. However, councillors were also being asked to give officers more powers to make delegated decisions on less contentious applications that receive only one objection.

But Tim East, local Liberal Democrat member, has criticised the “Neanderthal” move.

“Democracy is worth paying for to defend and it has to be more than just initiating change for change's sake, disguised as a cost-cutting exercise, as it's cheaper option,” he said.

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