Parish and town councils will no longer get a say on planning matters under new rules.

Maldon District Council has voted to give its own staff more power over planning matters than many of those the public have chosen to represent them.

Previously a parish council had the power to demand a debate if they had requested a planning application be rejected but an officer had recommended it for approval.

It is called a parish trigger.

Parish councillors went to a meeting on Thursday asking this to be extended to cases where they recommended approval but it was the officer who thought an application should be rejected.

David Ogg, chairman of Maldon Town Council’s planning committee, said: “We were backing applications as the town council, and then district council officers were rejecting them and then that was that.

“I said to my committee, and to the full council, I didn’t think it was very fair if we support applications and they reject it.

“We felt it should go to the parish trigger.

“We as the town and parish councils don’t have all the information but we have a lot of it, but maybe there are other valid reasons it is refused.

“If they were going to refuse an application, against a town or parish council recommendation, we wanted them to let the ward member know and let the chairman of that parish or town planning committee know. “

However instead of an extended trigger system the trigger was removed completely.

Under the new rules only district councillors can trigger a debate.

It is one of a raft of measures designed to save money but which critics claim will damage democracy.

A report, completed by the same officers who have been given greater power, claimed parish councils often objected to things “not based on sound planning reasons”.

Between January 1 and August 18 this year there were 52 occasions where the parish trigger resulted in applications going to committee.

Each time this takes place an additional report has to be prepared and presented.

It was claimed this was wasting time and money.

Having gone to ask for a greater say in planning matters Mr Ogg, who is also supported by Heybridge Parish and Burnham Town Councils, was angry to have lost the input they did have.

He said: “After the meeting and the decision to pass the recommendations we no longer have the parish trigger.

“I am really not very happy about it.”

Other measures include leaving items marked for noting and information off public agendas.

It means members of the public will have reduced access to documents and decisions made by officers.

Parish and town councils will now have to convince district ward members to call for a debate on any planning applications where the parish council disagrees with a planning officer.

Independent councillor Mark Heard had moved to back the motion to extend the parish triggers.

However the full council voted to remove it and change other rules also.