A CHRISTCHURCH councillor has told members he will be "keeping an eye" on the new planning charges and altered officer service following a decision to bring the policy into force.

The proposals to charge all persons seeking pre-planning application advice and to remove the duty planning officer advice system at the Civic Offices were approved by Christchurch Borough Council's resources committee last month.

The new set up is due to be introduced at the start of 2018, with a report on its implementation coming back to members after six months.

At the full council meeting, Cllr David Jones said: “It is disappointing to note - and I speak as vice chairman of scrutiny – that scrutiny committee’s concerns, I’m sure they were noted, but I would have hoped it were reported particularly that scrutiny committee did feel the abolition of a duty officer was a retrograde step.

“Resources committee is of course well within its rights to ignore what scrutiny said, however obviously I note that the matter will be reviewed, but I can also say scrutiny will be keeping an eye on this matter.

The move by the council to introduce fees for all pre-application planning advice was approved several years ago, but the set up in the planning department was not suitable to be able to charge for services.

With this now addressed, members were able to approve the charges and introduce the new approach.

In response to Cllr Jones' comments, Cllr Lesley Dedman, who chairs the planning committee and voted in favour of the approved changes to planning processes at resources committee, said: “What the councillor is talking about is the fact we now have to charge for all our services, which is maybe a state of affairs we don’t all appreciate but I’m afraid that’s the way it is.

“As far as not taking the recommendation from scrutiny word for word, we are bringing it back in six months, but it was felt by the officers and myself as chairman and my vice-chairman that it was best to give the officers and the whole department time to work as they are going to work in the future.

“If this does not work out then clearly scrutiny will take it back and look at it again, but I don’t accept that the recommendation wasn’t taken seriously.

“It was, but we decided in another meeting that we should have a longer time to work as we intend to go on and this is really done because planning is doing so much better now that we are able to charge for the services because they are good services we are giving."