A council wants to change its constitution, but opponents fear this will shut out residents.

Redbridge’s Labour-led council want to change the way it makes decisions at planning meetings and re-write part of its constitution to do this.

According to Conservatives, the new proposals would see councillors unable to comment on planning applications if they fall outside their ward, meetings that overrun would be cut short and outstanding decisions would be left to council officers away from the public.

Another proposal would see the Labour committee chairman – not an impartial council officer – make the final decision on whether applications or objections are to be considered by the council at all.

Conservative councillors fear this would be subject to political pressure and that their decisions wouldn’t be even-handed.

Cllr Michael Duffell and Cllr Suzanne Nolan, of South Woodford Conservatives, issued a joint statement on the proposals.

They said: “It has only been four weeks since the local elections and the Labour council is already bringing forward proposals to restrict the rights of residents to object and make comments to planning applications.

“Your elected representatives will also need permission to bring an application before the committee on behalf of residents.

“This is concerning for residents with Labour councillors as they may be neutered by their party apparatus, but even more so for residents with Conservative councillors as we could be subjected to petty party politics.

“We fear in South Woodford, this would bring Station Estate back into the sights of the council and regardless of how many residents and councillors object, this may be decided behind closed doors with no public scrutiny.

“We have always held that something as important as planning should be as open, transparent and above board with clear rules. These new rules may give rise to the perception of undue outside and political pressure. Our stance is that the present rules should not change.”

The proposed changes will be discussed at tomorrow’s general purposes meeting and will then go to full council for final approval.

A council spokesman said: “The changes proposed are reflective of the arrangements elsewhere in London and are part of a series of measures to ensure that our planning committee focusses its time on the larger, more strategic decisions. The council has just adopted its new local plan which promotes a significant rise in the level of housebuilding across the borough in response to growing local housing pressure.

“We expect to see the number of major planning applications increase and need to ensure that the committee has sufficient capacity to deal with the consideration of more complicated proposals. Under the proposed arrangements, those applications that would have previously gone to committee will be determined by officers under existing delegations which are already used in more than 90 per cent of cases.”