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05 July 2015

Planning Application for Mosque in Camberley

Released on 29 January 2010

Statement of the Monitoring Officer

Residents of Surrey Heath will be aware of the confusion which has arisen over the planning application for 282 London Road, Camberley which was considered at the Planning Applications Committee on 25 January 2010.

This is because the Council's procedural rules state that where the [Planning Applications] Committee is minded to grant planning permission in respect of an application which has been recommended for refusal by the Head of Built Environment, and the application has the required number of objections to trigger the public participation scheme, consideration of the application will be deferred to the next Committee to allow public participation to take place.

The Council's earlier press statement explained the procedural errors which occurred during the consideration of this item by the Planning Applications Committee and the need for the matter to be referred to a later meeting of the Committee for further consideration of the item, as there was a clear indication by a number of Members of the Planning Applications Committee that they wished to approve the application against officer recommendation.

The Council's Monitoring Officer has considered the implications of the procedural errors at the Committee meeting and the position of Members in the light of the Planning Code of Practice for Councillors and Officers and their continued obligations when considering this application. He has decided that in order for the application to receive a fair and proper assessment, he will report the matter to Full Council to seek the appropriate authority for the application to be determined by Full Council.

Factors taken into account include:

  1. At the meeting, once Members had decided to reject the officer's recommendation, they did not receive appropriate and correct advice that the only course of action open to the Committee was to defer consideration of the application to the next committee meeting to allow public participation. They voted believing they could make a substantive decision on the application and in doing so some Members expressed clear intention as to their views on the application.
  2. Members have a duty to keep an open mind on applications and listen to all the evidence and arguments before making a final decision.
  3. It is imperative when making decisions on planning matters that the Council's procedural rules are adhered to as any decision based on unsound procedures may render the decision subject to challenge;
  4. The Council's Public Participation procedures are designed to ensure that both the applicant (and their supporters) and objectors to the application are given an opportunity to address the Committee on matters relevant to the planning application and at a time when all Members have maintained an open mind to the application and its merits.
  5. The Monitoring Officer acknowledges potential difficulties that some members of the Committee may have in determining the application with an apparent open mind.

The Council deeply regrets that through procedural errors, the determination of the planning application has not only been delayed but has placed parties in a position where the Council needs to consider an alternative way to proceed with the application in the interests of fairness and due process.

In coming to this decision, the Monitoring Officer has had to consider not only the procedural fairness required for the application but probity issues for Members under their duties contained in the Member Code of Conduct.

The Council is now considering possible dates for the next consideration of this application by Members and will advise all parties with relevant interests of the date and venue for the meeting in due course. All interested parties should note that the application will not now be considered at the scheduled Planning Applications Committee on 8 February.

In the light of what has happened the Council is also reviewing the Planning Applications Committee procedures to ensure this unfortunate situation does not occur in the future.

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