Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Labour planning constitutional outrage

I hope you can read the above, as you really have to see it to believe it. I promised a rant, and here it is. Tomorrow is the annual meeting of the Council, at which business is usually restricted to electing the Mayor and other office- holders for the year ahead. This time however, Labour have tabled some significant amendments to the Council's constitution. The worst part, reproduced above, seeks to increase the number of objectors needed to refer a planning application to the full planning committee from two to five, and restrict the elected members who can do so to just the ward councillors.
It is an absolute outrage, and was sprung on us without any consultation with Party leaders. Its effect would be to make it much harder for residents to get a say over planning decisions. At the moment, if someone proposes an extension to their house, for example, the neighbours either side can object and take their case to the committee, where they get to address the meeting and ask elected Councillors to decide. Insisting on five objectors would mean they would have to find three other neighbours to object, when those people will probably not be affected. For many people, that hurdle would be too high, meaning the decision would be taken by unelected planning officers, with no input from Councillors or local people.
The reason given is perhaps the worst aspect- to reduce the committee's 'workload' ! So local people's concerns over planning applications are less important than giving planning officers and Councillors an easy life, it seems. It's an utter disgrace, an insult to democracy, and cannot be allowed to stand. I have been on planning committees for several years, and the length and frequency of meetings are not in any way excessive, so the reason given is rubbish. Planning officers never like it when they recommend approval and members vote to refuse, but that's democracy. Any restriction on the ability of local people and Councillors to debate and refuse planning applications is a serious matter, and the way Labour are trying to slip this through is appalling. I hear rumours the proposal may now be withdrawn, but I and other colleagues will make very sure they are held to account for this shoddy attempt to disenfranchise local people.

1 comment:

J J said...

Unfortunately. in the People's Republic of Greenwich, the people are of no importance.

Indifference is not the problem in Greenwich, it is cynicism.

I can't remember the last time I heard anyone say a good word about the council.