Members of Barnet Council's important Planning Committee were denied the opportunity for site visits on planning applications for nearly 1000 residential units by the Conservative Chair of the committee.
At last week's Planning Committee meeting (25 July) Labour councillor Claire Farrier requested that four applications be deferred as no site visits had taken place.
Conservative Chair of the committee, Cllr Wendy Prentice, said it was her decision not to request the officers to organise site visits as she did not think they were necessary. The request to defer the four applications was defeated by six votes to four.
Labour Planning Spokesperson, Cllr Tim Roberts said: "Site visits are a vital part of the work of the Planning Committee. To be on site and see the impact of a potential development on the local vicinity and have the ability to question Council planning officers on site is essential for Planning Committee members.
"As one application at Pentavia Retail Park sought permission for the construction of over 720 residential units in buildings up to 15 storeys high it is unbelievable that the Tory Chair did not permit a site visit, maybe if the application had been for four luxury houses in Hampstead Garden Suburb her decision would have been different."
Cllr Farrier said that when she asked planning officers about site visits two days before the Planning Committee meeting she was informed that the Chair had said there was no need for such visits. A range of site visits, particularly where applications cover a large number of residential units is the usual practice prior to meetings of Area Planning Committees and the main Planning Committee.
In addition to the very dense Pentavia Park application the Chair rejected the request for deferral of the applications of developments at Mount Parade in East Barnet (with petitions supporting objections from over 500 local residents), the erection of a new cafe on the Montrose Playing Fields in Hendon and development at the Jewish Cemetery in Edgwarebury Lane.
When asked about future site visits prior to Planning Committee meetings, the Chair said she would not reach any decision until she had seen the full proposed agenda for the meeting.