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Knights Hill furore leads to questions over parish council planning views

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Parish councils need to know their views matter on planning issues following the furore over an apparent U-turn on a major West Norfolk scheme.

That was the warning to borough council leaders as pleas for community authorities to be consulted on a mechanism through which applications are considered were rejected on Thursday.

But the administration insists the system does not change the way parish authorities’ views are considered.

GV of the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk, King's Court Hq, Chapel Street King's Lynn. (19768065)
GV of the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk, King's Court Hq, Chapel Street King's Lynn. (19768065)

The process through which decisions are made on planning applications has come into sharp focus in recent weeks after the borough council voted to drop a key objection to plans for 600 new homes at Knights Hill earlier this month.

And independent Terry Parish referenced the issue when he told the meeting: “They need confirmation that this council does listen to parish councils.”

Under the current process, a sifting system determines which applications should be dealt with by officers and which should go before the borough council’s planning committee for debate and a decision.

But critics of the scheme have claimed many parish authorities in their wards do not like the plan, seeing it as an attack on their democratic rights.

And, in proposing a motion calling for a consultation, independent leader Jim Moriarty said the council had broken its promise to consult.

He said he didn’t know whether parish councils liked the system or not, adding: “But I’d like to find out.”

Labour’s Charles Joyce added: “If you’re afraid of what people are going to say, hide under the desk.”

Council leader Brian Long insisted the process made no difference to how parishes were consulted on schemes.

He said: “There has been no parish council come forward to us to say this system is in any way unfair to them and they haven’t been consulted. This is an internal operation.

“Parishes don’t consult the borough when they change their internal policies. I don’t believe we need to consult on this in this way.”

But Mr Parish argued that parish level authorities now have to rely on their ward councillors calling in an application in order to get it debated by the planning committee.

He said: “They should have been consulted. It should have been explained thoroughly.”

However, Conservative Stuart Dark, who chairs the council’s corporate performance panel, said it had the power to review it and make recommendations for action.

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