A FORMER council leader has said now would the "perfect" time to merge its two planning committees after it was revealed almost a third of meetings were cancelled in the last two years.

Councillor David Chambers has reignited his call for Malvern Hills District Council's (MHDC) northern and southern planning committees to be merged into a single body, which he says will lead to better outcomes for residents and the council.

Almost a third of MHDC planning meetings have been cancelled since January 2018 with some meetings only debating and making decisions on one or two applications.

Worcester City Council and Wychavon District Council both only have one planning committee meeting which decides on several applications each month.

The council's northern planning committee is currently chaired by Cllr John Michael with Cllr Julie Wood chairing the southern planning committee.

Both receive £2,218.50 extra on top of their basic councillor allowance each year for the role.

Cllr Chambers called for the council's two planning committees to be combined when he was council leader in 2017 - cutting the membership of the committees from 38 to 22 - but was defeated by his fellow Tory councillors.

He had argued merging the two planning committees would be efficient and save money as well as protect the council's reputation.

Cllr Chambers has said he still feels the two committees should be merged and now was a better time than ever.

He said: "My views haven't changed at all. I think this is the perfect time to merge them into one. If that were to be the case I don't see the need for all 38 councillors to sit on the planning committee. That would be far too big."

Cllr Chambers said a dozen or so councillors who had a "specific interest" and were trained properly in planning could sit on the committee which would lead to "better and professional" decisions.

He said many decisions were now being made by council planning officers through delegated powers which meant less applications were being decided by committee.

"That is not to say both committees don't do a good job because I believe they have been doing that," he said.

Cllr Chambers said the council would save money because it would prevent MHDC and Worcestershire County Council officers from travelling to Malvern twice a month rather than once.

"I think it is benefit after benefit quite frankly. It will save money and lead to better outcomes," he said.

Cllr Sarah Rouse, leader of Malvern Hills District Council, said: “Under the last administration there was a Local Government Association/Planning Advisory Service peer review into the planning committee system. From this, it was decided we would continue with two committees.

“Planning committees consider major proposals and the agendas are focussed on these more significant proposals. It allows every Councillor to be engaged with the planning system and to represent our diverse rural district. Whilst the meetings are scheduled some way ahead, it is preferable to cancel these if the committee does not need to meet.

“The special allowances were reduced this year when the new administration of Independents, Greens and Liberal Democrats took control. The allowances are proportionate with equivalent committees responsibilities across the country .

“When it comes to planning, our councillors are passionate about our responsibilities for our residents across the Malvern Hills District.”