Three planning issues raised at the recent full council meeting of Warwick District Council will be debated later in the year after councillors agreed to an amendment put forward by the controlling Conservative group.
The notices of motion, proposed by members of the Greens and Labour groups, addressed issues relating to developers not fulfilling their obligations on social housing and infrastructure contributions, the growth of HMOs in certain parts of the district and the minimum size of homes.
In response to all three, Cllr John Cooke (Con, Kenilworth Abbey and Arden), the portfolio holder for planning and place, said that the full council meeting was not the place to debate the matters fully.
Cllr Colin Quinney (Lab, Leamington Clarendon) proposed two of the items including one which he said was primarily aimed at ‘unscrupulous developers’.
He said: “As you all know with major planning applications, the developer is required to provide 40 per cent affordable housing and make contributions to local infrastructure via CIL and section 106 contributions. However, developers can apply for a viability assessment saying that they do not need to do this.
“We are concerned that our process is insufficiently clear. This may be encouraging unscrupulous developers to accept the conditions to get through planning initially then request the viability assessment saying they cannot afford any affordable housing or even infrastructure contributions. I think we had an example of this recently.
“The purpose of this motion is to ensure that viability assessments are only undertaken when required as set out in the government’s national planning policy framework and our own local plan.”
Cllr Cooke’s response was to table an amendment saying that the council resolved to pass the motion to September's cabinet meeting and that it would ask for a report from officers that considered the potential for adopting the proposals in the motion, along with an appropriate timescale recognising available officer resources.
The same amendment was approved for all three items but in relation to Cllr Quinney’s first of the evening, Cllr Cooke added: “What concerns me with this is that we are not swimmingly oversupplied with planning officers and we have a situation where we are doing the local plan and various other aspects of planning and at the moment we are stuck for resources.”
Cllr Terry Morris (Ind, Saltisford), a stalwart of the council’s planning committee, agreed with the amendment.
He said: “I believe the intentions are very good intentions and I see where they are coming from.
"Planning is subject to a lot of regulation and I think it is wholly inappropriate for the full council to debate amendments on anything that affects planning decisions so I think the proposed amendment is a sensible one in that it goes to the executive for debate.”