A shake-up of planning committees in Barnet that will cut their links to constituencies has been agreed by councillors.

The move will see the borough’s current area-based planning committees – Hendon, Chipping Barnet and Finchley and Golders Green – replaced by decision-making bodies made up of councillors from across the borough.

According to a Barnet Council report, the change is designed to speed up decision-making and create more balanced workloads. The number of applications dealt with by Finchley and Golders Green Area Planning Committee was more than double the amount received by the Chipping Barnet committee over the past two years.

But at a meeting of the full council on Tuesday, Cllr Tim Roberts (Labour, Underhill) branded the move “undemocratic” and linked it to the Government’s controversial Planning for the Future white paper.

Cllr Roberts said: “Barnet Council seems determined to follow the Conservative Government in taking planning decisions away from local people most affected by these decisions.

“This restructuring will further reduce the ability of councillors to respond to the views of local residents.

“Instead of three area planning committees based on parliamentary constituency boundaries, they will be replaced by three committees whose primary role will be to speed up planning applications for the benefit of developers.”

Cllr Roberts suggested councillors from the other side of the borough would lack the knowledge of local ward councillors and it was unfeasible to expect them to travel long distances to carry out site visits.

“These proposals are undemocratic and not in the best interests of Barnet residents and should be rejected,” he added.

Cllr Melvin Cohen (Conservative, Golders Green), chairman of the constitution and general purposes committee, defended the proposals and claimed they would “move Barnet out of the Dark Ages”.

He said the new system would mean no one committee is “excessively overburdened” with applications, which would reach committees more quickly.

In response to the claim that local knowledge would be lost, Cllr Cohen added: “Surely, planning law is planning law, and that is to be applied by members from across the board?

“In my 28 years on the planning committee, I have never heard of a decision being challenged over lack of local knowledge.”

Cllr Cohen said virtual site visits can be carried out that give councillors a more comprehensive insight into the impact of developments than in-person visits.

Members of the Conservative administration voted in favour of the shake-up, with Labour voting against and the Liberal Democrats abstaining.