COUNCILLORS have voted to scrap proposals to merge three planning committees into one at an emotionally charged meeting.

Maldon District Council put forward plans to cut two of its committees which determine more than a hundred applications a year.

The council has committees for the north western, south eastern and central areas of the district.

Council bosses say in the last 12 months there has been a ten per cent decrease in the number of applications needing a committee decision.

Council leader Adrian Fluker detailed the plans at a full council meeting last night, and whilst stating the idea would be economically beneficial to merge the committees – which was predicted to save £15,000 a year - suggested that members vote for officers to prepare a fully detailed report for both options to present back to members in February 2019.

Mr Fluker stated he did not believe there was enough information for members to reach an informed decision at this stage.

However, many councillors opposed the idea entirely.

Sue White, ward member for Purleigh, said that cutting two committees and centralising all planning meetings would be “one layer of democracy erosion too far” stating the majority of residents in her ward contact her with planning concerns.

David Sismey, of Great Totham ward, expressed similar concerns.

He said: “Democracy costs money, and I think the savings predicted in this report are a little ambitious. Planning meetings are one of the things we do that the public have really taken an interest in turning up.

“They are often here, and I think we should respect that, and we should listen to them.”

Peter Elliott, of Burnham south ward, said: “One thing the leader did not mention in his presentation was the opinion of the public. The public are comfortable in local councillors making the decisions for them in their local areas.”

Richard Dewick, representing Tillingham, agreed that the council must make savings, but stated he would be happy to not claim the chairman’s allowance of £3,554 per year and keep all three committees.

He said: “The two biggest things we deal with as a council is rubbish collections and planning. Rubbish can be resolved within 48 hours, planning decisions are here forever.

“75 per cent of my communications from the public is planning, everyone has their own major concerns, and we all know our own areas.

“Quite frankly, I do not care about the chairman’s allowance, I wouldn’t mind if that went away, we want to be there because we care about the planning matters of our areas.”

A counter proposal was put forward to dismiss the merger, which was voted through by 21 votes to four.