In response to a question to Leeds City Council from Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Alan Lamb, the Executive Member for Sustainable Development and Infrastructure, could not provide details about the evaluation criteria used for the pilot scheme.
This was the latest attempt by Councillor Lamb to understand the criteria on which the pilot scheme will be deemed a success or not.
The decision was taken earlier in the year to remove public comments from the local authority’s planning portal, though it has faced backlash amid claims it reduces transparency.
Leeds residents can still object to or support a planning application, but their comments are now invisible online, as part of an initial six-month trial.
Those in charge said the move has been forced by staff shortages in the planning department and the time it takes to moderate abusive and libellous remarks.
In his most recent objection to the move, Councillor Lamb said he feels that if no criteria is defined, it will be impossible to argue the pilot has succeeded or failed, and that the pilot should therefore be scrapped.
Councillor Alan Lamb (Leader of the Conservative Group) said: “We are over halfway through the so-called pilot scheme to stop publishing public planning comments. After repeated enquiries trying to get to the bottom of how the scheme is to be evaluated, I am concerned that no one appears able to tell me what criteria is being used to judge the success of this pilot. Even in response to a direct question from me, no details were forthcoming.
“I still think it is the wrong decision to remove comments from the website. Residents should be able to see what is being said about planning applications in their area.
"Being able to log on and see public comments makes the decision-making process more transparent because it shows everyone the kinds of issues that are being raised locally, and which decision-makers will be considering when determining an application.
“Once again I call on the Council to be transparent and give us the information showing the basis on which this pilot scheme will be evaluated.”