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Campaign win! Council’s undemocratic 3 minute speaking rule thrown out

Becky Collier
By Becky Collier
31st January 2023

Just 3 minutes.

That is the TOTAL time that was to be allowed for ALL objectors to speak according to proposed new rules for the new Somerset Council, Unitary Authority planning committees after 1st April.

Just 3 minutes in total for everyone who is worried about an unsuitable development to have their voice heard. We thought this was undemocratic, unfair & unworkable.

Local communities need to be able to voice their varying opinions alongside specialists and groups like CPRE Somerset. Allowing only 3 minutes for all views was a ludicrous proposal. We were unable to find any example of a planning authority anywhere in the country that requires all the individuals who are objecting to share a single three minute speaking time! We feared the new Somerset Council was in a race for the bottom!

We spoke out against this plan at County Hall on 30th January – here’s what we said.

Speaking Notes- new Unitary Authority rules – 30 January 2023-pdf

The Council said they would look at the plans again and present an amended version to the next meeting on 14th February 2023.  To our horror, the papers submitted for that meeting showed no changes to the proposals.  So, off we went again to County Hall and here is what we said this time:

3 minute rule – Unitary Authority – CPRE Somerset speaking notes- 14th Feb 2023

Happily, we were not alone and there were many others speaking out against these proposals – including some local Councillors.

In the end, the committee voted to allow five members of the public to speak ‘for’, and five speakers ‘against’. Crucially, each speaker will be allowed 3 minutes (so that is up to 15 minutes for each side in total), with more allowed at the Chair’s discretion.
This is a victory for common sense as much for democracy. Well done to everyone who spoke out and thanks to LevellerLive for championing our campaign.


woman with blue tape on her mouth