Council is sometimes seen as the "bad guy" in these processes but in fact we are very much restricted in what we can and can't do. In the past, council had their own planning scheme and were very flexible in what they could allow - now we have a statewide planning scheme that is highly regulated.
People may think that the actual council meeting is the first time the issue is discussed - and are dissappointed when it is all over in a matter of minutes. In fact the application (and representors' submissions are discussed at length in meetings before the council meeting. Sometimes obtain extras information on a technical issue and usually councilors will visit the site.
If no-one put their hand up to move the motion - then the Planning Rules stipulate that the item is PASSED! So even if no councilor is keen on a development , someone has to move a motion to start the discussion.
To refuse a development we have to have a valid reason - one that will stand up in court. "Spoiling the view" or "it doesn't look very nice" are not valid reasons. We also take on board numerous reports - we don't ignore comments by representors but it is hard to dismiss a qualified professional's report against subjective comments by a representor.
There is always an appeal process so the council decision can be reversed. If we refuse an item, the developer will often appeal and similarly any representors are able to appeal if we pass it. Council has be be on very firm ground when we make a decision - it we're wrong we might lose the appeal - and have to pay costs - which are your rates!
Recently a neighbouring council refused an application because it was horrible - but complied with all the rules - cost them $50,000
In brief - we rely on professional advice and we follow a set of rules. Sometimes the outcome is unpalatable to some ratepayers.