CHANGES in the way Dorset Council deals with some planning issues could make it easier to bring controversial items before a committee.

Most applications are currently decided by officers with no councillor involvement.

But now the new Lib Dem administration at County Hall is investigating ways of making it easier for ward councillors, or town and parish councils, to bring items before one of the three area planning committees.

A similar system already existing in other councils, including neighbouring Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

Council leader Nick Ireland says the move is a response to disquiet from ward councillors who have been over-ruled in the past when they wanted to bring a specific item to committee for decision, and for town and parish councillors who often complain that their voices, when they are the local ‘experts,’ are not being heard.

“The claim that they don’t feel listened to has been a constant complaint” he said.

The council’s head of planning, Mike Garrity, said the move, if agreed, might increase the workload for staff and could, in some cases, lead to a delay in decisions being made.

“While, on the face of it, it sounds good, it could lead to greater risks and challenges,” he said.

Former Conservative council leader, Cllr Spencer Flower, described the proposals as “a curate’s egg – with some good bits and some bad.”

He warned that there would be a cost to the changes, that it could slow some applications and lead to overall delays in the system.

“You could end up with a lot of people grumbling because you don’t decide their applications when they want you to,” he said.

A final decision will be made by a full council meeting later in the year.