IN a recent column in the Ludlow Advertiser (December 17), Adrian Kibbler fired a broadside at the South Planning Committee. 
After the planning inspectorate approved 215 speculative houses off Bromfield Road in Ludlow, Adrian argues we committee members should pay more attention to what our officers say. If officers say approve a scheme, we should approve it. 
What is the point of having a committee if we do no more than rubber-stamp what officers say?
By the time the South Planning Committee meets to make decisions, its members have worked through every detail of a planning application. We begin reading committee papers and online submissions a week before the meeting. We formally begin work on the planning tour bus first thing the next Monday for site visits, with a second tour on Tuesday morning. We sit as a committee from 2pm until business is completed. We work as a team with no reference to party politics. That doesn’t mean we always agree. Our disagreements often shed light on the weaknesses of an application. 
Usually only the most complex applications come before the planning committee. We can spend more than an hour debating a single application. We listen to our officers carefully, along with those who speak in favour or against a development or have lodged comments. Individual members change their minds during the committee debate, usually towards agreeing with each other. Overall, we approve two-thirds of the applications we examine. 
The South Planning Committee turned down 19 planning applications in 2015. Sixteen of these were rejected despite officers recommending approval. The committee approved 34 applications. Officers had recommended we refuse three of these.  
Thirteen appeals against South Planning Committee decisions to refuse development were decided by the planning inspectorate in 2015. Only three committee decisions were overturned. That’s not a bad track record. 
Planning is not easy. It is our task to provide new homes, to allow industry and enterprise to flourish, and to support development that makes our towns and villages better places to live in. But we must also protect the intrinsic beauty of Shropshire and its heritage. 
Planning committees are open meetings. Come along and see how we work. But be prepared for a long and often technical session. We are not perfect but, in my experience, councillors in this county usually discharge their planning responsibilities well. 
Member of South Planning Committee