The Rock Parish Council Policy on site visits and other meetings with 3rd parties.
Councillors (and Clerk) need to exercise care when meeting any 3rd parties, in their capacity as a Parish Councillor. For this purpose, 3rd Parties include members of the public, councillors and officials of other authorities, developers, and contractors.
Councillors will meet and communicate with residents and perhaps official bodies in their role as an individual councillor on many occasions.
Input from the public is important to ensure that councillors understand public views when taking decisions. Nothing in these guidelines should be seen to restrict the openness of councillors to public input. Parish Councillors can also perform a valuable role passing on residents’ concerns to Wyre Forest District or Worcestershire County Councils and other statutory authorities but any such communication should make it clear that the councillor is speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the Parish Council.
Only the Clerk can commit the council contractually. Councillors cannot speak for the council unless this has been agreed at a preceding council meeting. The Chairman, or in her/his absence the vice Chair can on her/his own authority explain the Council’s position to official bodies without prior approval subject to that view having been specifically agreed and minuted.
Wherever possible at least 2 councillors (or a councillor and the Clerk) should be present at any council related meeting. This will reduce the risk of accusations of improper conduct and reduce personal risk.
During site visits any contact with applicants or members of the public should be treated with caution so as to avoid lobbying (or the perception of lobbying). It is appropriate that questions of a factual nature can be asked of applicants or neighbours, but councillors should not put forward arguments for or against the proposals.
Wherever possible at least 2 councillors (or a councillor and the Clerk) should be present at any site visit.
All site visits should be advised in writing to the Clerk and subsequently recorded in the minutes when the planning application is being discussed.
Wherever possible at least 2 councillors (or a councillor and the Clerk) should be present at any meeting with 3rd parties on council related matters. It is good practice to report on all such meeting at the earliest opportunity to fellow councillors and where appropriate at the next council meeting.
Wyre Forest District Council is working hard to keep the planning service operating effectively. The priority is to determine all applications where site visits have been undertaken. The Council has suspended all site visits and meetings at the moment and is considering alternative ways of working to protect staff and residents. Council staff are working from home wherever possible to enable the business to continue.
Rock Parish Council welcomes Site Visits and Pre-Planning applications discussions with any developer and or applicants.
However, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, our usual ways of operating have had to be tweaked. All our formal council meetings are now being operated virtually using Microsoft Teams.
Site Visits where requested by an applicant will be “risk assessed” by the Clerk before any visits are arranged. Socially distancing for all councillor’s present are a must. Gloves and Face Masks will be provided for all Councillors attending.
Councillors will listen to the applicant’s proposals on any site visit but should give no indication of support either for or against on these visits.
Anyone submitting a planning application can contact the Clerk and request attendance at the virtual Parish Council meeting, and at the discretion of the Chairman, will be allowed to speak and present their planning proposals.
The applicant will be aware that Rock Parish Council are NOT the final arbiter but just a Statutory Consultee in any formal planning application. The Council will listen very carefully to the applicant’s proposals but will not indicate any preference or commitment prior to a formal planning application being submitted.
Should a Councillor indicate a personal view towards any applicant prior to formal planning consultation then that Councillor will need to declare an Interest and play no part in the final Council discussions and determination.
Any councillor wishing to express a private view, on an application, to WFDC, is advised to do so after that application has been discussed at a formal RPC meeting.
Any Councillor expressing a view, on an application, privately to WFDC prior to the discussion of that application at a meeting of RPC should declare an interest and take no part in RPC deliberations or decision on that application.