CHANGES to the make-up of the Blaenau Gwent Planning Committee will see it expand to 14 councillors.

At Blaenau Gwent County Borough Councill’s annual meeting on Thursday, May 25, council leader Cllr Steve Thomas set out the changes which will see one councillor from every ward in the county borough sit on the committee.

Cllr Thomas said: “We are looking to do something different with planning.

“Following consultation with both groups and their respective leaderships an amendment to the composition of the planning committee for 2023/2024 cycle (of meetings) is proposed.

“The planning committee will comprise of 14 members – that’s one member per ward.

“We believe this will provide greater and fairer representation across all areas of the borough.”

To provide political balance to the committee, nine councillors will come from the ruling Labour group and five from the opposition Independent group.

A further tweak will also see councillors on the committee not allowed to vote on planning applications that come from their own ward.

Cllr Thomas explained that this was seen as “best practice” and was used at other local authorities.

Cllr Thomas said: “In essence they can act as a community champion.

“It is proposed that this is trialled for a period of six months.”

Cllr Thomas added that there wouldn’t be any changes to the Licensing Committee, which would continue to have nine councillors.

Independent group deputy leader, Cllr Wayne Hodgins, said: “It’s nice to see that we are an innovative council, looking at alternative ideas and also to give the best representation across the whole borough.

“People have said that it has been sometimes slightly monopolised.”

Cllr Hodgins explained that at times too many members from the same part of Blaenau Gwent sat on the committee.

Last year, out of the 11 councillors on the Planning Committee, three represented Brynmawr, and Cwm had two.

Cllr Hodgins added: “I think it will work well, we’re not afraid to try new practices and it’s nice to see as a local authority we’re sharing best practice with others.

“Let’s hope it brings the outcomes we’re looking for.”

The proposal was backed unanimously with Cllr Lisa Winnett (Labour) confirmed to continue in her role as the committee’s chairwoman.

Cllr Peter Baldwin (Labour) was also voted in as vice-chairman.

They both also hold the same roles on the council’s Licensing Committee.