ALL future meetings of the Southern Area Planning Committee will be held at the earlier time of 3pm, rather than 6pm.

The change in start time aims to save money with planning officers no longer needing to be paid so much in overtime and venues being cheaper to hire.

Committee chairman Fred Westmoreland said: “The fundamental reason is to save money. With six or eight officers required to spend between three and four hours plus travelling time, that amounts to a substantial amount of money."

Before Wiltshire Council was formed in 2009, most of the planning committees under Salisbury District Council met in the early afternoon.

Cllr Westmoreland who said people’s attention was better when they were not “working late on into the evening” added: “When we went over to the new system we actively lobbied to keep it at the time everyone was used to but we were told it must be the same across the county - it’s taken eight years to realise Salisbury was doing it right the first time.

“I have to admit, and I’m sorry for this, there will be some inconvenience for the public but there is inconvenience for them anyway because they turn up and don’t know how long they will have to wait.

“In the past we never had a problem with people coming - if they’re really interested they’ll come.”

But committee vice-chairman, councillor Chris Devine, said the time change should be reconsidered.

“This is a decision that is a blow for democracy and planning," he said. "It will affect local people."

A recent planning meeting which included several large developments finished at 11.15pm.