This issue has been a hotly debated topic since the new Belfast super council was elected in May 2014 and has come before council no less than three times.
However, last night the council voted by the slimmest of margins 28 for to 27 against to allow planning committee meetings to be recorded and made available to the public. The proposal was brought by the Alliance party.
Before the vote, members of the publc were able to attend the planning committee meetings.
Here is the party breakdown of how they voted
Alliance, Sinn Fein, Green Party and People Before Profit.
DUP, UUP, PUP, SDLP and an Independent Unionist (Ruth Patterson).
Those arguing against the proposal cited legal advice that they had recieved urging council not to do this due the sensitive information that a Planning Committee has to consider as part of their deliberations and the quasi judicial function the Committee performs in determining applications. My understanding was that this advice was given orally.
Other councils in Northern Ireland such as Mid-East Antrim Borough Council record their planning committee meetings. Moreover, parties like Alliance, stressed the importance of transparency in dealing with these issues.
An interesting side note is that 3 SDLP Councillors were absent last night when the vote was being taken, had they been there it would have been defeated (30-28).
Anyway, a bright day for democracy or a case of fools rushing in?