GREATER “transparency and accountability” around planning applications is set to be enforced at Kingston Council.
Cr David Eden’s suggestion that a councillor’s name be listed on a planning report if a councillor “calls in” a planning application to be debated and voted on in council chambers was backed by the majority of Kingston councillors at last week’s public council meeting.
The reason for calling in the planning application will also be listed.
“I’ve had considerable community feedback over the last few years where residents come to me and they say ‘why did this application end up on the agenda?’ and it’s only when you start ringing up the planning department or CEO that you find out it’s because a particular councillor called it in,” he said.
Cr Eden said the proposal was about “being transparent and being accountable” while “not casting aspersions” on why a councillor has called in a planning application.
Residents would no longer have to contact council departments or submit freedom of information requests if a councillor’s name is listed on a planning report, according to Cr Eden.
Cr Ron Brownlees said “every councillor has the right to call an application in” but he said the appropriate place to discuss the reason is at a public council meeting.
Council CEO John Nevins cautioned councillors could “put themselves at risk” if the reason for calling in a planning application could be “reasonably interpreted” as a pre-judgement of the matter by that councillor.
Crs Steve Staikos and Tamara Barth said they called in planning applications if residents expressed concern about a development in their neighbourhood.
Cr Rosemary West said “It is not wrong for a councillor to call in an application … [however] it is unusual for councillors to call in matters that have been refused by officers. Normally if officers think things are inappropriate we don’t call them in.”
Crs Eden, Barth, Brownlees, Staikos, West, Tamsin Bearsley and mayor Geoff Gledhill supported listing a councillor’s name on a planning application which is called in. Cr Paul Peulich abstained. Cr John Ronke was absent from the meeting.
Crs Staikos, West, Bearsley, Eden and Barth voted to include a reason for calling an application in while crs Brownlees, Peulich and Gledhill unsuccessfully opposed the move.
“Planning is a very significant issue in the Kingston community … I think it [naming councillors] empowers residents with the information they need to cast a ballot come the next council election and the one after that,” Cr Eden said.