Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New Planning Proposals Stifle Democracy

Local people could be deprived of their right to object to planning applications at meetings of Bournemouth Council’s Planning Board under plans being considered by the Council this evening.

Bournemouth's Conservative Councillors are opposing this change and calling for the right of residents to oppose planning applications to remain in place.

Up to now, letters of objection from five or more residents have been enough to ensure that a planning application is heard by the Planning Board. When this has happened, members of the public have been able to attend and speak at the meeting and also witness the debate which determines the application.

Proposed alterations to the powers to decide planning applications exclude this right altogether. The only course open to residents would be to persuade a ward councillor to ‘call in’ the decision to the Planning Board and then ensure that the councillor was at the meeting to speak up for them.

I will be moving an amendment to the proposed changes this evening which will ensure that an application is heard by the Planning Board where there are 10 or more letters of objection. I'm being supported by Cllr Philip Stanley Watts (Boscombe West).

I gave this statement to confirm our position: “It’s simply undemocratic to deny residents the opportunity to ask for the Planning Board to consider a planning application in open meeting. The Planning Board and Planning Department do excellent work under difficult circumstances, not least where their hands are so often tied by central government and the SW Regional Assembly. Many of the proposed changes are sensible and will assist the council in providing a more efficient planning process. However, local people must be able to participate in the process, and our motion will allow this to continue.”

Mark Anderson, Co-Chairman of the Queen’s Park and Charminster Forum expressed his dismay when informed of the proposal: “Planning applications are one of the most frequent issues brought to the Forum by our residents. If they do not have the ability to submit objections to the Planning Board, they will feel even more excluded from a process from which they already feel disenfranchised.”

“I fully support the proposal being put forward by Councillors King and Stanley-Watts. I feel sure residents of our area - which is already blighted by over-development - will feel the same way”.

Let's hope we can persuade enough Labour and Lib Dem Councillors to support the ammendment this evening.

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