RE: Scrutiny of planning applications
I've always thought that although it is evidently highly appropriate for scrutiny members to get involved in talking about planning and licensing policy, it is more difficult to justify involvement in individual cases. Quite apart from anything else it could open the council up to successful appeals against planning decisions because of the suggestion that planning members have put undue weight on evidence from scrutiny, or the suggestion that (through scrutiny members) planning members are receiving erroneous advice from officers of the council (ie scrutiny officers).
Moreover I'm not sure if it's an especially good use of members' time - while it's important to look at operationasl issues (and individual decisions) to build up a strong evidence base and get an idea of general trends, looking at it just on its own is less relevant.
Where there's going to be a consideration of individual planning and/or licensing applications outside of the standard planning/licensing process, I'd suggest that this happen through neighbourhood/area forums or through ward members' constituency work rather than through the scrutiny process.
Mind you, if this is something that members really want to do and your monitoring officer raises no objections, I would be extremely interested to see how it goes.