22/01/08 – Time to inspect the inspectors
DECISIONS made by a single planning inspector are going against the interests of Swindon residents, says a councillor.
Now councillors have called for the powers of the unelected regional planning inspector to be abolished.
Coun Dale Heenan (Con, Covingham and Nythe) chairs the council’s planning committee and raised the issue at a council meeting.
He said his committee worked “very much at the coalface. We can see the impact of our decisions within 6 months and will last for 20 years and longer”.
Coun Heenan said: “We have decisions being made by a single inspector based in Bristol affecting all the people of Swindon. How can it be right for one unaccountable person from Bristol to overturn a decision made by elected Councillors? We are elected to represent local residents and their voice”
Labour leader Kevin Small agreed with the view and said the planning inspectorate was created because of “backward looking councils who wanted to keep their chocolate box picture of a perfect village”.
He asked: “Is it right that a single person can make these kind of decisions?”
Coun Phil Young, cabinet member for economic development and regeneration, said: “At the moment the only people who have the right to appeal are developers.
“The inspector bases decisions on how developers tick the boxes of the Government.”
A motion to seek a review of the powers of the planning inspectorate was approved unanimously.”
Additional Comment by Dale
The government expects 1/3rd of all refusals to be overturned on appeal.
I am the Chairman of the Committee and we have shown that we will not rubberstamp any application. The Committee is made up of Councillors who base their decision on the merits of each application. Local residents will be aware that the redevelopment of the Esso Garage was refused by the Planning Committee.
Esso appealed to the Planning Inspectorate based in Bristol and asked for the Committee’s refusal to be overturned.
I was the only local Councillor for Coleview, Covingham and Nythe to attend the appeal hearing, and I spoke up on behalf of residents who did not want to see this application granted! The Planning Inspector ignored the views of residents and gave Esso permission!
We now believe that the construction work has damaged drains in the area and directly led to the flooding of Dorcan Way during the recent heavy storms.