COUNCILLORS have argued that changes to the constitution could be undemocratic by limiting their rights to challenge planning applications.

Councillors can 'call in' applications they have concerns over in their ward. Full council voted 74 to six to stop them from being limited to five minutes to outline their objections to planning that has fierce opposition in their community.

Cllr Ian McLennan said: “We should not put shackles on the member who has chosen to represent their community.”

Some objected to plans to streamline the process.

Cabinet member Toby Sturgis said: “The protocol says there has to be a planning reason and because it is in the public interest in not a planning reason. I see no reason why genuine call ins should ever by stopped by an officer, it is just to make sure we are acting in our own protocol.”

Cllr Jon Hubbard said: “We just paid tribute to the transparent way the council was run by Jane Scott, and I’m concerned with comments just now from the cabinet member discouraging call ins just because it is a matter public interest. If a member is aware of a significant matter of public interest and has due concerns then they are right as part of the democratic process to call that in. Then residents can see matters resolved, be it in their favour or not and it is absolutely critical to residents accepting to decision being made. That smacks in the face of transparency.”

The issue was sent back to committee for further work.