PLANNING ASSESSMENTS - DISTANCING PLANNING CONSIDERATION FROM THE CORPORATE VIEW
18. In performing their wide range of functions and representing their communities, it is normal and reasonable that local authorities sometimes find themselves in a position where they both support development and must make a judgement on it as planning authority. It is essential that these respective functions are handled entirely separately, by different parts of the council. Local authorities, like any developer, can select their preferred site for a particular development and draw up plans that best suit their circumstances. It is also reasonable, and indeed advisable, in preparing plans for development, that the relevant department of the local authority engage in pre-application discussions with planning staff at the earliest opportunity, to discuss the proposal's prospects for securing planning permission, how it might be altered or improved if necessary to make it acceptable and what the likely timetable would be for reaching a decision. This is no different from best practice for any private development.
19. While the council, as a whole, may have reached a corporate view to propose or support a particular development, the planning authority must still carry out its statutory planning functions without interference. So once a planning application has been lodged, it is a matter for the council's planning officials and planning committee alone to carry out a thorough planning assessment - following all necessary procedures - and reach a decision in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. The authority's corporate decision to support development must not take precedence over the need for a proper and fair planning assessment; nor should the authority's wish to proceed to a certain timetable.