Headlines: October 18th, 2002

Local councilors are to be questioned about the training they are given in dealing with planning issues as part of a survey by the Local Government Association, the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Improvement and Development Agency.The study, launched by Planning Minister Tony McNulty, is designed to identify areas where training currently falls short of what is needed. It will be sent to local authority chief executives, chief planning officers and a sample group of elected members.

Mr. McNulty said councilors played a huge role in deciding the future shape of the communities they served, making decisions on schemes from patios and  loft conversions to a major by-pass or a new school. ” As a former councilor on a planning committee, I know just how vital proper training is in being able to reach the right decision. The survey will allow councilors themselves to tell us where the gaps are in their current training.”

Mike Haslam, President of the Town Planning Institute, said his members were already putting time and effort into training councilors in planning matters and he urged those who received the survey forms to complete them.  For the IDeA, Assistant Director Paul Wheeler, said councilors had a unique  responsibility in balancing local interest and wider community need. “It is vital that this responsibility is undertaken in a professional and transparent manner,” he added.

Jane Chevis, who chairs the Local Government Association’s Planning Executive, also highlighted the important part to be played by councilors in reform of the planning system. “All councilors will need to be aware of the proposed reforms to the planning system and the emphasis on improving performance, openness and inclusion. There is a pivotal role for councilors in communicating and championing this new vision, ” she said.