Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Planning has nothing to do with local democracy

The one thing that amazes me is that people and Councillors think that Planning decisions have anything at all to do with "local democracy". The planning system is based on the premise that anyone can do what they like to their property so long as it is not prohibited or regulated by law. That is the basic right of every individual or legal body.

The decision by Councillors on HDC Development Management Panel is costing all council taxpayers for going against officer recommendations to approve a filling station in St Ives.

Cllr Jason Abelwhite says:
“It was the Co-operative and their insistence on a written appeal away from any potential bad publicity and subsequent inspector’s decision that overturned local democracy and public opinion,” he told the protesters at the weekend.
Overturned Local Democracy? Public opinion has no part in the Planning process. Planning isn't democratic. The reason why HDC will have to pay for the appeal is the objectors didn't do their homework. They needed to produce evidence to support their claims. And the District Councillors who produced this motion of refusal should have produced evidence to back up their decision to refuse. They didn't.

The political pantomime over planning is the community is led to believe that Councillors actually take decisions over planning matters. They don't. What they do is take a decision without evidence to back up their case and the Planning Inspector takes the right view.

Below is the minute of the Development Management Panel of 21st December 2009. Each reason for refusal needs to be evidenced. So if you are going to give a reason of refusal because of traffic congestion you need to show evidence that traffic congestion would occur. This wasn't done. If the Highways Authority had objected to this planning application this could be used. They didn't object.

(Councillor N J Dibben, St. Ives Town Council, Councillor Mrs D C Reynolds, Ward Councillor, Mrs Easan, objector and Mr J Murphy, on behalf of the  agent RPS Group, addressed the Panel on the application). that the application be refused for the following reasons:-

(i) in the opinion of the Local Planning Authority, the establishment of a petrol filling station on the site would be likely (so not definite) to have undesirable consequences to those residents living nearby (any evidence of this?). Whilst it is accepted that a proportion of the customers of the filling station will be visiting the centre in any case, the Local Planning Authority believes that this new business activity (any evidence of this?) would inevitably attract additional vehicles which, together with the possibility of additional on-street parking due to the reduction in off-street parking provision (any evidence for this?) as a result of the custom would be during evening hours and at weekends, those periods when local residents might otherwise expect commercial activity in the area to have decreased (is this an actual planning reason for refusal?) The Local Planning Authority considers that the occupiers of adjacent homes would, on occasion, find this extra activity disturbing and harmful to their residential amenity, contrary to policy H30 of the Huntingdonshire Local Plan, 1995 and policy B4 of the Huntingdonshire Interim Planning Policy Statement 2007; and 

(ii) it is also considered that the applicant has failed to demonstrate that the proposed development would not be detrimental to highway safety (any evidence of this? The Highways Authority had no objection) because of the likely increases in traffic and the reduction in off-street parking provision as a result of the proposal contrary to T1 of the Huntingdonshire Interim Planning Policy Statement, 2007. 

The reason why the Planning Inspector awarded costs against HDC and therefore the HDC Council Taxpayer is the reasons given in the decision to refuse weren't evidenced. This crucial.

Cllr Abelwhite and all the other District Councillors must know the planning process. Whilst the law has slightly changed, the Co-op had previous planning permission on the site for a petrol station. To blame the Planning Inspectorate for a making a decision within the law is wrong. Instead the District Councillors should explain the decision and the likely outcome. "Local democracy" has no place in Planning decisions. The Development Management Panel is a rubber stamp exercise for Planning Officers.

The Planning Officers were right. The District Councillors who voted to refuse were wrong. The Council Taxpayer has to pick up the bill for this flight of fancy by the District Councillors. Will those who refused this planning application be picking up the bill for this wrong decision? I doubt it!

No comments: