PLANNING decisions made by Wiltshire Council committees have been overturned by inspectors on every one of the last 12 applications that have gone to appeal.

Planning applications can be ‘called-in’ by councillors when this is fierce public opposition to a development that planning officers recommend for approval. The application then goes to a committee of councillors who can reject the proposal.

£43k of damages had to be paid out by Wiltshire Council last month after an inspectorate overruled a Village Green application Wiltshire Council had supported.

Cabinet member for planning Toby Sturgis said the number of lost appeals was alarming, and that enormous pressure was being put on workloads as the council fights to defend the decisions made by councillors.

Cllr Sturgis said: “I appreciate members calling applications to committee is their democratic right but it is alarming the last 12 member decisions on call-ins to committee where decisions were overturned have all been lost at appeal. That adds enormous workload, trying to defend these at appeal. We have had costs awarded against us.”

Cllr Alan Hill thinks the process is important for democracy. “I'm getting an inference that it is not right for members of public to attend and sway the committee against an application. There is a danger here the public well feel disenfranchised by the implication.

"The system is there to be used if a member feels a recommendation is not supported and the community want to express their view,” He said.

Cllr Sturgis said: "I'm not implying a restriction in the public speaking, but in making a refusal, the planning committee needs to think carefully whether they have sound planning grounds."

Leader of the council Jane Scott said: “We have to be honest with our parishes, we don’t want it to go to inspector. I would hate to think this council will stop its democratic process. We just need to make sure the ones that are contentious have strong planning reasons."