A “cabal” of West Norfolk councillors is deciding which planning applications should be fully debated and denying communities a say in the process, a parish council leader has claimed.
Martin Hickey, who chairs Castle Acre parish council, says a secret sifting committee has been established to determine which schemes should go to a full public debate and which should not.
Mr Hickey has called on parish authorities across the borough to unite against what he claims is “an abuse of democracy”.
He said: “This is an authoritarian and highly undemocratic move, contrary to inclusive governance.”
Until now, parish councils whose recommendation on an application contradicts that put forward by borough planning officers have automatically had the chance to make their case before a full planning committee meeting.
But Mr Hickey claims the council’s ruling cabinet, in an unminuted session and without consulting parishes, decided to set up a committee that would choose which applications went to the formal planning meeting in order to save money.
He said: “For those not referred, these councillors are effectively acting as judge and jury. It damages the reputation of the borough.
“I call on all parishes in West Norfolk to make their views known to both the leader of the council, and to their ward councillor, to stop this abuse of democracy going ahead.”
But Geoff Hall, executive director for planning at West Norfolk Council said that a sifting panel was necessary because of the “disproportionate” number of applications being put before the committee.
He said: “The review of the planning scheme of delegation has concluded that in order to manage the number of applications within the resources available and to the deadlines specified, a mechanism needs to be in place to ensure only those applications that really need scrutiny and challenge are sent to committee to be determined.”