ANYONE who has ever been fortunate enough (or otherwise) to attend a council planning meeting will be familiar with the five-minute rule.

It limits members of the public to just five minutes of speaking to justify their objections or their reasons to support an application.

Once those five minutes have passed, members of the public cannot speak again.

Meanwhile, councillors and officers have no limit placed on the time they can debate an issue – and the juxtaposition can leave a bitter taste in the mouth of public speakers.

Many rightly question why they are only given such a short amount of time to argue for or against something that could have a significant impact on their livelihood.

The issue raised its head again this week, when the future of the Allendale Dalek was due to be decided at Tynedale Local Area Council on Tuesday.

Owner Neil Cole submitted a planning application for the Dalek’s shed after a parish councillor complained he did not have permission for the development.

Speaking before the meeting, Neil felt the planning laws were draconian.

He said: “It’s rubbish! It’s like being in Russia. It’s unbelievable.

“I’m not allowed to use any visual aids either, so I can’t have a powerpoint.

“It’s a very subjective issue. It’s about how something looks and I can’t show any pictures!

“I was going to talk about it from a business perspective for 90 seconds and my planning consultant was going to have the other three and a half minutes.

“We’ve decided not to waste any time and I’m just going to talk for five minutes.

“150 people from all over the country wrote letters of support. They all got invited to the meeting and to speak, but I had to tell them they wouldn’t be able to speak.

“It’s five minutes for everyone speaking in support, and then you can’t speak at all. It’s scary.”

Neil isn’t the only person who isn’t a fan of the regulations.

Haydon Parish Council’s vice-chairman, Eileen Charlton, had previously had an issue with the policy during the fight to save Haydon Bridge’s fire station.

She thinks the council should reform the policy.

Coun. Charlton said: “That’s the allocated time, and it doesn’t matter if there’s ten of you – you have to cover it.

“Lots of people have things to say, but unless you get your act together you don’t get the point across.

“We introduced a public speaking section at Haydon Parish Council because we had public speakers in about one issue and the meeting went on until 11 o-clock.

“However, if after that time someone has something relevant to say we let them speak.

“I really do think it needs to be reformed, but you have to keep control of meetings.

“The fact that if there’s more than one person speaking and you have to share is just ridiculous.”

Despite the criticism, the chairman of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee, Coun. Colin Horncastle, stated that the five-minute limit was the only way to keep things fair and prevent meetings from going on forever.

Coun. Horncastle said: “If you have 100 people who wanted to speak, then you’d have to give them 500 minutes.

“It’s a historical thing and it’s the same for everybody. It always has been that way.

“It’s considered by people at the council that five minutes is enough to discuss planning matters. Material planning matters are all that should be discussed.”