SOME councils are allowing planning officers to have more say on applications which normally go to committee for a decision, while others are waiting for Welsh Government advice.

Most planning applications are normally determined by professional officers.

But larger and more controversial schemes go before councillors on a planning committee.

These meetings are held in public, and give objectors, supporters and ward members the chance to have a say before the committee – guided by officers – approve, reject or defer an application.

With committee meetings suspended due to the coronavirus, councils are trying to find a way forward.

Carmarthenshire Council said it was working through current planning applications but was unable to process new ones because site visits could not be carried out.

It said staff from the planning department were also being redeployed to help deliver critical services.

“This decision will be reviewed daily and we encourage people to keep an eye on updates,” said a council spokeswoman.

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Swansea Council said it was not looking to extend the system of delegated powers at this stage, and was able to process new applications.

Neath Port Talbot Council has delegated powers to a director and head of service to determine applications where any delay would prejudice the council or public’s interest.

But the planning committee chair and vice-chair must consider each matter first and make a formal resolution. Also, an officer report will be published on each application beforehand, with the public and interested parties having an opportunity to comment.

A council spokesman said: “Planning ‘committee’ decisions under urgency action powers will progress on the council’s usual three-weekly cycle, and on the dates when the committee would otherwise have sat, unless a decision is deemed essential and would have been progressed at a special committee.”

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said it was encouraging local authorities to consider different ways of working in response to the current situation.

“We are working with them to consider how they can continue to operate and whether any temporary changes to regulations are needed,” she said.

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