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Dear City of York Council,

For the wealthy outer wards, which are all parished, planning applications go to them as statutory consultee ( or whatever you call that).

For the inner wards suffering a democratic deficit without having a lower tier of democratic governance below the unitary tier- there are, we are told, ‘planning panels. We do not know who these people are, how or when they are ‘elected, how long they are ‘in post’ for, what decisions they make, how or where they are recorded? If these people even live in the wards they are supposed to ‘represent’ or where their register of interests are to ensure for example ‘the panel
Members are not acting with undue influence.

As such please provide the following

1. A list of all the planning panels

2. The rules and protocols for these panels to include term limits, how many are supposed to be on the panel, how individuals are selected, etc etc

3. For the Guildhall Panel.
Please advise the number, names, length of time on the panel, , contact details and whether these people each line in the ward or not.

4. As these are supposed to be representatives please advise when any report is made and where it goes and provide these for Guildjall ward for the last 4 financial years.

5. Which planning applications are sent eg to the planning panel, and for the last 2 full Fys please provide the nominees responded to, and not.

5. Please provide the register of interests and what measures are in place to ensure no advantage is taken if their ‘positions’.

Gwen

Yours faithfully,

Gwen Swinburn

Information Governance - CYC, City of York Council

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Regards

 

Corporate Governance Team

 

 

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Gwen Swinburn left an annotation ()

Even after the ICO enforcement action, CYC carrying on as before here.. so it is in the ICO’s inbox, another unanswered FOI.

Scaife, Mora, City of York Council

Dear Ms Swinburn,

Apologies for the delay in response. Please find below a response to your Freedom of Information request regarding planning panels taking each question in turn:

Q1. A list of all the planning panels

A1. There are active planning panels for the following ward committee areas:
Guildhall,
Dringhouses and Woodthorpe,
Clifton,
Micklegate

Q2. The rules and protocols for these panels to include term limits, how many are supposed to be on the panel, how individuals are selected, etc etc

A2. The term of a planning panel is 12 months however there is no limit to the number of times an individual could be a member of a planning panel. The panel members are selected as part of a ward committee meeting. There have in recent years been some interruptions to a regular pattern of meetings including during the redirection of resources during the Covid-19 pandemic and Pre-election periods. There is no upper limit number of people who can be involved in a planning panel however currently, previous advise has suggested that 8 - 12 people is a manageable group and not all panel members will be available for every meeting. There is a fact sheet which I am aware has been supplied previously, some time ago and this does require updating due to team and practice changes e.g. The team supporting ward committees and therefore planning panels is now called the communities team, also use of online meetings has become common practice.

Q3. For the Guildhall Panel.
Please advise the number, names, length of time on the panel, contact details and whether these people each line in the war The following questions were listed :

All responses are specific to Guildhall Planning Panel and have been confirmed in consultation with the current clerk:

A3a. There are currently 9 members of the Guildhall Planning Panel.

A3b. The following people are members of the Guildhall Planning Panel (time served in brackets)
Win Derbyshire (7 years) (Clerk)
Sarah Daniel (10 years)
June Tramner (9 years)
Chris Donegani (6 years)
Ann Petherick (10 years)
Charlette Sheil-small (5 Years)
Mary Pringle (5 years)
Stephen Scott (5 year)
Sarah Friar (4 years)
Louise Elliot (temporarily absent).

A3c. All of the current panels either live and/or work in the ward.

A3d. The planning panel comments back to the individual planning officer who has sent the application, usually on a three weekly basis in line with the pattern of meetings of the panel. Responses are available via the planning portal and can be viewed by members of the public. Planning panels also report on activity through public meetings of the ward committee.

A3e. When the panel meets physically then members declare an interest and then leave the room and then are not involved in the discussions or the resulting comments from the panel returned to the planning officer. Guildhall Planning Panel now meets most often online and in terms of declaring an interest members mute and switch off video therefore absenting themselves virtually.

A3f. Measures to in place so that individual planning panel members are not able to take advantage of their position on the panel include: that there are a number of people coming together to discuss local planning applications, that responses to applications are managed and coordinated by the Clerk as comments from the panel not from individuals, and as declared by the current Clerk that no members have commercial interests in the ward.

A3g. It is practice to give the email address for the Clerk rather than listing members in order to ensure that any communications are directed through the Clerk.

Q4. As these are supposed to be representatives please advise when any report is made and where it goes and provide these for Guildhall ward for the last 4 financial years.

A4a. With reference to response 3d planning panels respond directly to planning officers, comments are available via the planning portal, verbal reports are made at public meetings.

Q5. Which planning applications are sent eg to the planning panel, and for the last 2 full Fys please provide the nominees responded to, and not.

A5a. Where a Ward has a Planning Panel they are notified of all planning applications within that ward.

A5b. Assuming that the request is for a list of all planning applications sent to the planning panels for a period of 2 years advice from colleagues in planning is that this would require a search of 1108 records. Assuming 2 minutes per record (which may be an under-estimate) this equates to 36 hours of officer time and is not practical/reasonable to gather as part of this response.

Q6. Please provide the register of interests and what measures are in place to ensure no advantage is taken if their ‘positions’.

A6. Planning Panel members are not currently required to complete a register of interests, there is no advantage or additional status to planning panel comments compared to those submitted by an individual. However with reference to the response regarding the Guildhall Planning Panel, individual panel members are encouraged and have a mechanism for absenting themselves from discussion and resulting comments regarding any application where they may have an interest.

Regards

Mora

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Dear Mora

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of City of York Council's handling of my FOI request 'Planning Panels'.

Thank you for this response. Unfortunately the replies are unspecific in places so this is a request for an internal review

Q1 I asked for a list of all the planning panels, but it appears that some are inactive, for the remaining unparished wards. Can you provide the list of. ‘Inactive’ panels and how any democratic accountability on planning applications at the local level happens with those inactive panels,

Q2 I note from your description that there appears no formal protocol for the rules and protocols for these panels. But it is somewhat of a shock to discover that these are 12 month terms and the Ward committees agree membership. I recall maybe once in the last 10 years I pushed for a panel discussion at a Ward committee but have seen nothing at all on reports, membership, applications for membership, transparency. May I ask for all the rules and protocols for these panels or confirmation there is nothing in writing, ie nothing held. Please provide the outdated fact sheet at least that is something, even if. As you say, it needs updating.

Regarding Ward the meetings where the panel is appointed. In Guildhall Ward we have had zero Ward committees since December 2022 and precious few before then, so any pretence that these panels have any authority from the citizens is aspirational. It’s great these dedicated volunteers do it, but there really isn’t any democratic process supporting this. There is and hasn’t been for years any regular pattern of Ward committees, a cursory look at the Ward cttee web site confirms that,

Q3 Thank you for providing the names, but not the contact details for the Guildhall panel members ( and thanks for the service) I note the shortest term is 4 years, longest 10. Without the contact details how would citizens not on the panel be able to engage with them? I am comparing with the open committees that Parish Council’s have. We do not as an example have an email for the clerk so if anyone wanted to reach the panel even via the clerk this is not possible. This appears a particularly opaque process compared with our outer parishes.

You assert that planning panels report to Ward committees on their activities, again is there an evidential basis for this contention giving Guildhall as an example?

Regarding conflicts of interest this appears a very informal system compared with what would be expected even at a Parish Council, can you confirm what rules are in the protocols. The matter is simply not commercial interests, it could be a neighbour or family interest. I am sure this will be in the protocols, to protect the dedicated volunteers.

Q4 May I clarify I am asking for reports to the Guildhall Ward committee

May I clarify the ‘weight’ of comments made by planning panels, parish councils or individuals- are they each given the same weight?

Finally May I ask and I accept this is unlikely to be a recorded information matter, but of the unparished wards only a minority appear to have functioning planning panels - is there a plan to undertake a refresh of this area both to update and modernise the system, ahead of any community governance review
Thanks in anticipation Mora.

Gwen

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

Yours faithfully,

Gwen Swinburn

Information Governance - CYC, City of York Council

1 Attachment

Thank you for your email.  Please note this is an automatically generated
receipt to let you know we have received your email.

 

For information:

 

·        The timescale for responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
and Environmental Information Regulation (EIR) requests is up to 20
working days. We will contact you promptly if we need you to clarify your
request or an extension to complete a public interest test.

 

·        The timescale for responding to requests for a review, for FOIA
or EIR responses, is up to 20 working days. You are also able to contact
the Information Commissioner Office (ICO) contact details below:

 

·        The timescale for responding to your rights in relation to
personal data eg: subject access to records (SAR) request, is up to 1
month. We will contact you promptly if we require further information from
you, or an extension.

 

·        The timescale for responding to requests for a review, of
responses to your rights regarding personal data, is up to 1 month. You
are also able to contact the ICO, contact details below:

 

·        If after we complete our investigation and reply to you with our
findings, you still remain dissatisfied you can contact the ICO:

 

Phone:  0303 123 1113 or via their [1]live chat. Their normal opening
hours are Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm (excluding bank holidays). 
You can also report, enquire, register and raise complaints with the ICO
using their web form on [2]Contact us | ICO

·        You can find more information about how we deal with Freedom of
Information Requests at:

 

[3]Make a freedom of information request – City of York Council

 

·        You can find the Corporate Governance Team Privacy Notice at:

 

[4]https://www.york.gov.uk/privacy/Corporat...

 

Regards

 

Corporate Governance Team

 

 

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Gwen Swinburn left an annotation ()

Another one gone to the iCO

Information Governance - CYC, City of York Council

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Dear Ms Swinburn,

 

I have now completed a review of how the council responded to your request
for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and I can
provide the following response.

 

Firstly, with regards to your request for the ‘planning applications are
sent eg to the planning panel, and for the last 2 full Fys please provide
the nominees responded to, and not’  being withheld due to exceeding the
cost limits, I can confirm the calculations provided were correct and the
staff resource to locate and retrieve this information would exceed the
cost limits, as set out in the Fees Regulations. However. I would like to
apologise that we did not state that we were withholding this information
under section 12 of the FOIA and that we did not provide any assistance on
how to refine your request.

 

I can advise, based on the calculations provided in your original
response, that within the time limit the council could search 540 planning
applications sent to planning panels to try retrieve and locate the
information, this could be by either:

 

·      Searching a random sample of planning applications

·      Searching applications in particular data range

 

If you wish to refine your request, based on the information provided
above, please let us know.

 

Your other points of concern and additional questions were:

 

Q1 I asked for a list of all the planning panels, but it appears that some
are inactive, for the remaining unparished wards. Can you provide the list
of. ‘Inactive’ panels and how any democratic accountability on planning
applications at the local level happens with those inactive panels,

                        

There is no requirement for wards to have or support a planning panel for
the ward. As supplied in the previous response there are active panels in
the following wards:

 

• Guildhall Ward
• Dringhouses and Woodthorpe Ward
• Clifton Ward
• Micklegate Ward

 

Where there isn’t a current planning panel this would not be considered an
‘inactive panel’ even if there had been an active panel previously. Rather
that there is currently no planning panel in those wards. If the
information required is in which non-parished wards is there not an active
planning panel currently then this would be as follows:

 

• Acomb
• Fishergate
• Heworth
• Holgate
• Hull Road
• Westfield

 

This could change if any new planning panels are formed. Where there is no
planning panel in a non-parished ward then there is no collective process
for local residents to comment on planning applications above that which
is open to everyone as individuals.

Q2 I note from your description that there appears no formal protocol for
the rules and protocols for these panels. But it is somewhat of a shock to
discover that these are 12 month terms and the Ward committees agree
membership. I recall maybe once in the last 10 years I pushed for a panel
discussion at a Ward committee but have seen nothing at all on reports,
membership, applications for membership, transparency. May I ask for all
the rules and protocols for these panels or confirmation there is nothing
in writing, ie nothing held. Please provide the outdated fact sheet at
least that is something, even if. As you say, it needs updating.

 

Regarding Ward the meetings where the panel is appointed. In Guildhall
Ward we have had zero Ward committees since December 2022 and precious few
before then, so any pretence that these panels have any authority from the
citizens is aspirational. It’s great these dedicated volunteers do it, but
there really isn’t  any democratic process supporting this. There is and
hasn’t been for years any regular pattern of Ward committees, a cursory
look at the Ward cttee web site confirms that,

 

Attached a copy of the fact sheet relating to ward planning panels and a
copy of the code of conduct for planning panel members both are due for
review.

Q3 Thank you for providing the names, but not the contact details for the
Guildhall  panel members ( and thanks for the service) I note the shortest
term is 4 years, longest 10. Without the contact details how would
citizens not on the panel be able to engage with them? I am comparing with
the open committees that Parish Council’s have. We do not as an example
have an email for the clerk so if anyone wanted to reach the panel even
via the clerk this is not possible. This appears a particularly opaque
process compared with our outer parishes.

                         

Where there is an active planning panel in a ward contact details are on
the ward web pages on the City of York Council website for example please
find a link to the relevant section of the Guildhall Ward web page
[1]https://www.york.gov.uk/wards-1/guildhal...

 

In each case the contact details are either through the Community Officer,
via a dedicated email address or both. I understand that Guildhall
Planning Panel experienced an issue with their dedicated email address and
could no longer access this and therefore the contact details listed are
that of the Community Officer who will pass on any enquiries direct to the
Clerk of the Planning Panel.

 

You assert that planning panels report to Ward committees on their
activities, again is there an evidential basis for this contention giving
Guildhall as an example?

 

The comments of ward planning panels are made publicly accessible as part
of the planning application process. They may also report back to ward
committees through public meetings, ward team meetings and other ward
events. There have been fewer opportunities for public engagement through
ward committee meetings events since the pandemic.

 

Regarding conflicts of interest this appears a very informal system
compared with what would  be expected even at a Parish Council, can you
confirm what rules are in the protocols. The matter is simply not
commercial interests, it could be a neighbour or family  interest. I am
sure this will be in the protocols, to protect the dedicated volunteers.

 

Please note a request under the FOIA is a request for information held in
a recorded form or extracts from that information. Your questions have
been passed onto the service area who will provide you with a response
where appropriate.
Q4 May I clarify I am asking for reports to the Guildhall Ward committee.
May I clarify the ‘weight’ of comments made by planning panels, parish
councils or individuals- are they each given the same weight? May I ask
and I accept this is unlikely to be a recorded information matter, but of
the unparished wards only a minority appear to have functioning planning
panels - is there a plan to undertake a refresh of this area both to
update and modernise the system, ahead of any community governance review

                          

As we have entered into a new financial year and wards are planning their
ward committee meetings and events for the year community officers will
put forward the potential to bring together a planning panel in
non-parished areas where currently no active planning panel exists and
make provision within those plans to re-elect planning panels where they
are already established. The supporting documents and contact arrangements
for planning panels will be reviewed and updated.

 

If you remain dissatisfied you can contact the Information Commissioner,
contact details below:

 

Phone:  0303 123 1113 or via their [2]live chat. Their normal opening
hours are Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm (excluding bank
holidays).  You can also report, enquire, register and raise complaints
with the ICO using their web form on [3]Contact us | ICO

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Information Governance Advisor.
t: 01904 554145 | e: [4][City of York Council request email]

 

City of York Council  |  Corporate Governance Team

West Offices  | Station Rise | York YO1 6GA

[5]www.york.gov.uk | [6]facebook.com/cityofyork | [7]@CityofYork

 

 

You can find information about how the Corporate Governance Team uses your
personal information at

 

[8]https://www.york.gov.uk/privacy/Corporat...

 

 

 

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