CHANGES to the planning process in South Gloucestershire put forward by Conservatives have been pulled following criticism from opposing councillors.

Proposals put forward by the council’s cabinet to Wednesday’s AGM that would see the merger of the two development committees, a reduction in councillors and a limitation on the input parish councillors and residents could have in meetings and site visits came under fire after Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors claimed they had not been consulted.

In next May’s election, South Gloucestershire ward boundaries will be changing, with the number of councillors being reduced from 70 to 61 and it is expected that the changes would reduce the number of councillors in the merged committee by 30 per cent, meeting only in Kingswood.

Labour group leader Cllr Pat Rooney said the fact they were not included in any decision making process was “a further example of the culture of concealment at South Gloucestershire Council” particularly as the Conservatives appeared to claim they had spoken to all parties.

Incoming South Gloucestershire Lib Dem, Cllr Claire Young, added the proposals themselves were “a body blow to local residents’ rights to stand up to unsuitable planning applications in their communities” with the “deck already heavily stacked in favour of powerful developers”.

Following the criticism, the Conservative Group have announced they would not bring the proposed changes to the Full Council meeting on Wednesday.

Newly elected Council Leader Cllr Toby Savage said: “Fresh leadership provides a fresh opportunity to review these proposals and engage with opposition councillors in a spirit of openness and cooperation. We do need to make changes to a local system that hasn’t changed with the times.

“I don’t believe the existing set-up that the council has historically opted for is serving the best interests of residents and the communities in which they live and work.

“We cannot and must not turn a blind eye to a system that cost local taxpayers almost £1million in the most recent year, when just a year earlier costs were running at less than £7,000.”

He continued to say that he looked forward to working with opposition councillors on the proposals between now and July’s council meeting when they would likely be raised again.

In the last year alone almost £966,000 has been spent by the council fighting appeals and paying out costs.