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Councillor Robert Coghill Questions Convenor On Planning

26th February 2011

From Highland Council Agenda 3 March 2011
Councillor Robert Coghill has shown his exasperation to restrictions placed on councillors in a written question to the Highland Council convenor on 3 March -

To the Convener
"We cannot, as Councillors, comment on planning applications and then sit on the Planning Committee. What will you do to rectify this injustice?"

The response is circulated - See Below

Mr Coghill will be entitled to ask a supplementary question which will be answered by the Convener.

Item 11 - Question Time
Response - to Mr Rob Coghill

You will be aware that all Councillors are bound by the provisions of the Councillors'
Code of Conduct issued under the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc (Scotland) Act
2000. Within the Code of Conduct, it is clearly stated that the public has a high
expectation of Councillors and the way in which we conduct ourselves in undertaking
our duties in the Council and that we are required to meet those expectations by
ensuring that our conduct is above reproach.

I would therefore refer you to Section 7 of the Code which confirms the requirements
placed on Member's involved in planning decisions. I draw your attention to specific
sections of the Code, as detailed below.

7.4
To reduce the risk of your, or your Council's, decisions being legally
challenged, Councillors must not only avoid impropriety but must at all times avoid
any occasion for suspicion and any appearance of improper conduct.

7.11 If you propose to take part in the decision making process you must not give
grounds to doubt your impartiality. You must not make public statements about a
pending decision, to ensure that you are not seen to be prejudging a decision which
will be made at the meeting where it can be anticipated that the information required
to take a decision will be available. You must not indicate or imply your support or
opposition to a proposal, or declare your voting intention, before the meeting. Anyone
who may be seeking to influence you must be advised that you will not formulate an
opinion on a particular matter until all available information is to hand and has been
duly considered at the relevant meeting.

7.13 Where you will be participating in making the appropriate decision you should
not organise support or opposition, lobby other Councillors or act as an advocate to
promote a particular recommendation on a planning application, on a planning
agreement or on taking enforcement action, or on review by the Local Review Body.

7.15 If as part of the decision making process you wish to make representations on
behalf of constituents or other parties you may do so providing:-
(i) you do so in terms of procedures agreed by the Council which afford equal
opportunity to any parties wishing to make representations to do so,
(ii) you declare your interest in the matter; and
(iii) after making those representations you then retire from the meeting room.
This position was reiterated by the Standards Commission at a Members Seminar on
22nd February 2011, when it was confirmed that any Member, involved in planning
decisions, who was representing specific views or giving rise to doubt about their
impartiality, in the terms outlined above, would be at risk of breaching the Code of
Conduct.

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