SSDC changes planning rules

A series of major revisions to planning in South Somerset have been loaded up onto their website.

They are out for consultation until 13th May. Today is the 3rd May. The documents are dated 28th April. That means the consultation will last barely a fortnight and has not been promoted (there has been no press release – certainly not one received at Leveller Towers).

Many parishes are simply unaware that these changes are being proposed.

We have attached the relevant documents. If your parish council has not seen these, please read them.

SSDC have also noted that “The Council has now operated one round of consultative Area Committee meetings and one Regulation Committee where planning items have been discussed.  The recommendations from the respective committee are passed to the Chief Executive under powers bestowed at Full Council on 19th March. At some point, which has not been announced yet it is intended that formal decision making meetings take place, keep an eye on our Minutes and Agendas PageAs such it is worth reminding parishes and agents/applicants that effectively normal decision-making is taking place and planning officers do not have any greater power to decide applications.

As a point of clarification, the statement by SSDC is factual accurate but disingenuous. The critical change is that an officer (ie the CEO) and not members (elected by you) are making the decisions. That is a massive difference and the fact planning officers are not making the decisions is virtually irrelevant to the point.

Next we have a request from SSDC for information from Parishes/Towns and I quote “A month has passed since the decision was taken to discontinue sending paper copies of planning applications to Town/Parish Councils and to email a consultation instead referring to online application documentation. We would welcome feedback on how parishes have adapted to this new approach and what if anything could be done to ensure this arrangement could continue to operate longer term, please email with the subject bar text ‘Digital Consultation Feedback’.”

Most important of all are brand new “Validation Guides” and “Enforcement Protocols”. You should read these. There are important changes in these documents and the minimal amount of consultation being offered should tell you all you need to know.

If you wish to give feedback you can do so here for enforcement and here for Validation


  • Are you referring to sect.7 of “Change to the Constitution” there Andrew, as I’m reading that as delegated authority in the event the council can’t sit (physically or remotely)? Also appears to be subject to a sunset clause? However, once power is granted, is it ever really released….. TTFN, Colin.

    • The change of constitution effects the way the area committees and CEO make decisions. That should be temporary – but note SSDC pointedly do not give a date for when it reverts back to normal. However the other planning changes do not appear to be temporary….

  • Andrew – Do you (or any one else reading this) have a list of the main changes proposed. I dont see anything obviously controversial but I am not reading the old and new together.

    • No it is especially interesting that they haven’t listed the changes. Which is annoying, but begs the question why not. And why the hurry?
      I think this, together with the rushed consultation period and lack of notice to the parishes, is what is causing a large degree of suspicion. And believe me there is a large degree of suspicion.
      The main change I can see is in the enforcement document and is the real emphasis on “considered expedient”. I suspect there has always been an element of this is the past, but there is now great emphasis placed on it throughout the document.
      It effectively allows the council to take no enforcement action unless it feels like it. Because it is the council that decides whether or not enforcement is expedient.
      For instance if it turned out the council’s enforcement team were under staffed, they could quite legitimately say enforcement action would not be expedient. And as there have been numerous complaints about a lack of enforcement across the district in recent months, that is a worry. It looks as if the council are setting themselves up to more or less abandon planning enforcement. It doesn’t say so in words of one syllable, but that’s reading between the lines.

  • Democracy has never been high on the agenda at SSDC.

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