TOWN and parish councils will continue to have an input into planning matters under the new unitary Dorset Council – after a Tory revolt.

Opponents of how planning issues would be dealt under the constitution stood their ground and won changes, giving the smaller councils more of a voice.

It had been suggested that any planning issue would have to be raised by a town or parish via a ward councillor – but an amendment will now result in a more direct say.

Crucially it improves the chances of getting planning matters debated by a committee rather than being decided, with no councillor involvement, by planning officers.

The revolt against the Conservative dominated shadow executive proposals was led by West Dorset's planning chairman, veteran party member, Cllr Fred Horsington, with an amendment put by his vice chairman and fellow Conservative, Cllr Nigel Bundy.

Both argued that the new methods being suggested were less democratic and would lead to complaints that the local voice was not being heard in planning matters.

“I am very concerned about does not allow town and parish councils the full weight of their opinions,” said Cllr Horsington, to cheers from the meeting.

Weymouth councillor Christine James said in her 14 years on the borough's planning committee there had been an increasing trend to have applications delegated to officers, rather than decided democratically by councillors.

“Had it not been for a handful of experienced councillors a lot of applications would have been just given the wave through,” she said.

Cllr Simon Christopher called on members to listen to Cllr Horsington's warning: “If we set this up on the wrong foot we will upset a lot of people in Dorset,” he warned.

Support was also offered by Liberal Democrat Cllr Robin Legg who said the system being proposed would leave planning applicants and grass roots councils feeling 'severely disadvantaged.'

And once shadow executive leader Rebecca Knox realised there was also widespread support amongst the Tory backbenchers she conceded that changes could be made.

After a few minutes or reading, and re-reading, amendments the original proposals were thrown out to be replaced by a system of consultation currently used at West Dorset. The winning amendment gaining a four to one margin in its favour.

The county's association of town and parish councillors had used the public session to add its voice to the debate with Hilary Trevorah, from the group, asking the new council to support and actively involve town and parish councils in planning issues.