Labour welcomes the long overdue recognition by Westminster Council that it is right and proper for residents and residents groups to have the opportunity to speak at Planning Committee. It is essential for the good functioning of our democracy that citizens can make their voices heard.
The detailed proposals are a major step forward for Westminster, after years of campaigning by Labour, but we don’t think they go far enough in some areas. Labour is making the case to the Council that:
- Residents should be allowed five minutes not three. A professional speaker can make him/herself clear in a short time but members of the public, who may be unaccustomed to public speaking and possibly quite nervous, should be given enough time to make their points.
- Recognised Neighbourhood Forums should be given speaking rights. The proposals currently restrict this ability to recognised Amenity Societies only.
- Committee members should have the ability to ask questions of speakers, especially if what is said is not clear or open to interpretation.
- The restriction to just one resident for minor applications is too strict. It’s quite common for two or more residents to have two or more different reasons to object.
- The Chair should have discretion to allow a speaker who has not registered in advance where he/she feels this is appropriate.
- Applicants should only be invited to speak in favour of their proposals if someone is registered to speak against.
- Dividing a fixed time slot between multiple speakers is a recipe for chaos. The example in the proposal of six objectors each speaking for one minute is unlikely to lead to the smooth functioning of the meeting.