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Politics in the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead

  • About David Burbage

    David Burbage MBE was Leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council from 2007-2016. This blog : Promoted by Geoff Hill on behalf of David Burbage and all other Windsor and Maidenhead Conservative candidates, all of 2 Castle End Farm, Ruscombe, Berkshire RG10 9XQ
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On the new 52 pages of planning guidance

Posted by davidburbage on September 9, 2011

One of my favourite quips as a councillor is that all meetings end up becoming planning policy discussions. Whether it is on retaining business rates (“you’ll need to change our planning policy”), or adding car parking spaces (“you’ll need to change our planning policy”) or building a school extension on the edge of the flood plain – (“you’ll need to change planning policy”) it becomes a matter for planning policy.

That would be fine, except all too often local authorities don’t have the right of self-determination despite best efforts to the contrary.

Under Labour, a Local Development Framework could simply be “fixed” by an unaccountable Inspector despite having had oodles of meaningful local consultation and revision.

Under the Coalition, the new plans won’t allow inspectors to actually change plans – but then authorities won’t get a badge of approval. What then, when the developers appeal a local decision to – yes – the unaccountable planning inspector – are they likely to uphold the plan they don’t approve of, or the application that goes against that plan? I think it is the latter.

I don’t buy all of the negative rhetoric about a license to build all over the countryside, but my worries are (1) getting the approved local plan in place and then (2) unaccountable inspectors not respecting it when it isn’t a carbon copy of the government guidance.

Planning policy work is difficult and frequently impenetrable to an ordinary citizen, whatever the good intentions of government. To really achieve a localist outcome, planning decisions simply need to be made locally by democratically elected councillors – which means no appeal to an unaccountable “professional”.

I was told when I became a councillor “when you sit on the planning panel you are sitting in quasi-judicial capacity”.

But the loser in a jury trial cannot just appeal every decision that they don’t like to a higher court that then sits without a jury!

So why can applicants for planning permission appeal a elected panel decision to an unelected inspector, who isn’t local or accountable to the community that has to live with the outcome of the decision – that overrules the local decision?

As the Pope said to Michelangelo

Look! I’m the bloody pope, I am! May not know much about art, but I know what I like!

Ordinary folk can interpret and comment on planning applications far more readily than spend days constructing complex consistent compliant conformant sustainable planning policy.

Our focus should be on improving that aspect of local democracy, whilst absolutely deconstructing the terrible Labour legacy of horrendous complex top-down planning.

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2 Responses to “On the new 52 pages of planning guidance”

  1. Anonymous said

    David,

    Fine comments, of which I agree 90 %, but we need some form of judicial appeal, to curtail Nimbysm.

    Occasionally the greater good or national interest, must overside the populist parochialism of vote-hungry Councillors.

  2. davidburbage said

    Someone needs to take a decision! At the moment, we can’t even approve a dropped kerb without a man from Bristol overruling us.

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