Decisions on roads could be ‘in private’

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Decisions on important highways projects could have been made in private under proposals considered by Sheffield Council.

Officials proposed changing the process for approval of highways schemes – at which decisions are currently made by a committee in public – to ‘speed up decision making’.

But the idea was criticised as ‘cutting back on democracy’ and councillors have climbed down.

Two existing planning committees are still being merged into one, to save £12,000 a year on allowances and administration.

Currently, there is a single cabinet highways committee and two planning committees covering different parts of the city.

Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for development, said decisions on highways plans where there are public comments will still be made at a public meeting.

Under the original The highways committee would be scrapped and decisions made by a council cabinet member, at meetings behind closed doors.

And decisions on all but the biggest highways projects, worth more than £1 million, would be made by unelected officials.

The proposals were criticised by opposition Liberal Democrats, who say public scrutiny on highways projects is important, highlighting the 
£6 million Woodseats traffic scheme fiasco, which had to be altered at further cost after it worsened congestion.

Coun Ian Auckland, Lib Dem transport spokesman, said: “The change would have taken the voice away from communities.”