Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Planning Curbs - Unfair and Unjust

Lord Rooker the Environment Minister has announced what I feel are stinging cuts on the role a councillor plays in seeking site meetings for and on behalf of residents.
He says that the action will not lessen or weaken the essential role council consultation plays in the planning process and confirms that views of councillors will be taken into account - my comment - rubbish.
Part of the Aims and Visions of the Planning Service as an organisation is "earn respect and trust, is open and in touch, works together and values its people".
My problem is that when an application is submitted and the planning service announce that application in the smallest possible print in the local newspaper, unfortunately they do not notify everyone and it is left to councillors to phone around and let people know about a particular site meeting. This is often the first communication residents have on something which is very important to them.
He even I understand is saying site meetings will be held in an office rather than at proposed development sites. This is absolute nonsense, it is very important that meetings are held on site.
Site meetings are exactly what they say they are, this is one of the few times when neighbours can discuss plans, with a planning officer, the applicant, councillors and local residents groups.
My concern is that of the many site meetings I have attended it is generally the established resident who suffers by decisions made by the Planning Service, allowing new development nearby. I have sat with residents crying and who have been made ill through some decisions.
As well we now we have Lord Rooker denying residents and councillors the use of deferment more than once and at a stroke taking away site meetings.
My advice to Lord Rooker is talk to the people on the ground, come out from your office protected by civil servants and listen to what those who matter say, come to North Down Borough Council Meeting and see just how much work councillors put into planning and helping residents. Perhaps the odd trip out might be beneficial.