Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council is considering abolishing its Area Planning system and replacing it with a single committee of about 13 councillors to decide planning applications across the Borough.
Since when the council was formed in 1974 the council has been divided into three areas each with its own planning committee on which all the councillors for those wards or parishes sit and have a vote.
The system was chosen so all councillors would have a say based on their detailed knowledge of their wards and given the diverse area of the Borough stretching from Blue Bell Hill and Wouldham down to East Peckham and Tonbridge and up to Stansted parish on top of the Downs in the north west corner. It also meant that the committees would not be formed based on party allegiance as are the council's other committees.
Over the years the system has been reviewed and was looked at again when the Government imposed the Cabinet sytem on councils in 2000.
This is argued by officers that no other Kent Council now has an area based system and that having one committee would save money.
Former Council Leader David Thornewell says:
"I feel the present system works well and gives all councillors a voice. Over the years officers have suggested the system be abolished but both myself and previous and successive Council Leaders have resisted those calls. Indeed when we last reviewed the constitution we inserted a clause to consult parish councils about any change and so far this has not been done.
I am not convinced by the argument that because no other council in kent has the system we should abolish ours. The whole idea of having councils is so they can do what they feel is best for their area and not have just the same system everywhere. If this is what Parliament wanted they would not have allowed the option of area committees in the legislation.
The Borough is a diverse area still with Tonbridge Town in one corner separated from the other built up area of the Medway gap around Ditton/Aylesford by a large stretch of countryside. I feel it is still right that Tonbridge councillors make decisions about Tonbridge on planning applications and the same in the other two areas.
If one committee was created it would lose the local knowledge that councillors have about their own patches and it is also really worrying this is being proposed again when the council will be involved in making difficult decisions on new housing areas to put into the revised Local Plan. The council needs to show the public it will listen to them and all the fine words about localism mean something".