'A violation of democratic rights' - this is how a concerned member of the public has described a proposed planning overhaul.

David Forster, of Whitehaven, is urging councillors to vote against the proposed changes, over fears it would take away the public's democratic right to speak.

However, the council says this is untrue and the public will still have the chance to speak at planning meetings.

The overhaul comes after the authority’s former planning panel went against the advice of planning officers on several major schemes.

Under the new rules, “no further representations” will be allowed from objectors or supporters of a scheme if members go against officers’ advice.

The application would come back to the panel after a month-long “cooling off period” during which time members must come up with “clear and convincing reasons” which they should be “prepared to explain in full”.

In a letter to council members, Mr Forster says: "The new proposals are, in my opinion, a violation of the residents of Copeland's democratic rights.

"There needs to be accountability and transparency. To disregard a public right to speak is unacceptable and I believe immoral.

"Endorsing the new proposals would also have catastrophic effects on safety aspects to our area, including highways control, residential amenities, infrastructure and the environment.

"I feel it is important that these proposals are rejected and respectfully urge you to vote against them."

However, Mike Starkie, elected mayor of Copeland, says the proposals would bring a "much-needed tightening up" of the planning process, and would bring Copeland in line with planning process elsewhere in the county.

"Our councillors are making decisions on multi-million pound developments that profoundly affect people’s lives and livelihoods, and it is entirely appropriate that the process behind that is robust," he said.

"If the changes are agreed, supporters and objectors will absolutely still be able to comment on applications exactly as they do now. They will however not be able to repeat their support or objections at a second meeting because the decision-making councillors will have heard their comments first-time around, either in person or via a recording. This does not, as this letter alleges, remove any right for people to have their say.

"There is plenty of opportunity for supporters and objectors to make their views known, either in writing or in person at the planning meeting. I reject any allegation that these proposed changes remove the public’s right to be fully engaged in the planning process."

The changes are due to go before the council for consideration today and would come into force on July 1.