NOBODY with any sense takes on the job of a district councillor expecting it to be ‘a walk in the park’.
But few of us expected our impossible position over the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP).
It is easy for the public to blame local district councillors for the onslaught of planning applications that we are facing but it is important that people are aware of the facts of the situation before any metaphorical lynching of your elected councillor.
The SWDP is going through the first stage of the Enquiry In Public on its passage to adoption. There is still a way to go, and it is not expected to be adopted until later next year, at best.
Meanwhile, we have to give significant consideration to the National Planning Policy Framework. This states that an authority in our situation should grant planning permission to an application unless ‘any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits’. This refers to the national housing shortage, and so far inspectors have come down clearly on the side of allowing developments.
What happens if we just stick to our guns and keep refusing applications?
Every planning appeal that goes against us counts in the performance of our planning department. Councils who are judged to be failing can be subject to ‘special measures’ which is a way of saying that they will be taken out of the loop for planning applications, which will then go straight to the inspector, who is more likely approve them.
This means we could lose control of all of our planning functions, not to mention the costs.
So, you can pressure your local councillor to refuse applications, but that might result in a far worse situation than if we do our utmost to influence the proposed development for the benefit of the community as a whole, and retain control of our planning functions.
Once the SWDP is adopted, we will be back in the driving seat. The sooner the better!