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Planning Matters

Planning MattersThis article is a mixture of planning items relating to Fylde - to update readers since our last planning articles 'Rubber Stamping', 'Incompetent Planning?', 'FBC Special Measures?' and 'Incredible Housing Numbers'

There has been a lot going on, and we apologise to regular readers for not being able to keep everyone more up to date before now.

Following the Council's endorsement of the 'Preferred Options' draft of the Local Plan on 27 June ('Local Plan at Council'), almost half the councillors said it was fundamentally flawed voted against it.

They then published a 'Minority Report'  of their own (download the report as a pdf file) in June, setting out in some detail, arguments to establish that the underlying evidence on which policies were based, (and thus some of the policies themselves), was flawed.

Entirely separate from the Council, various community groups in Fylde have campaigned against inappropriate planning and development in their towns and villages. Most had separately been preparing responses to Fylde's invitation to comment on the "Preferred Options."

As the closure of the consultation period approached, several of those preparing consultation responses contacted one another to compare notes. All groups expressed dissatisfaction with the underlying data and the processes that Fylde was using.

They also noted that almost half (41%) of the Council had refused to support the 'Preferred Options' document, and had issued the Minority Report which outlined flaws and short-comings which they too had found.

The nucleus of active groups called a meeting that drew in others, and concluded with a joint statement agreed and issued on behalf of all attending groups. They also agreed to work together in future to argue the case for the changes.

In essence, they were unhappy that Fylde had wasted so much of their money on studies that had produced flawed data which resulted in flawed policies and thus flawed housing proposals.

In particular we understand the groups were concerned about an excessively optimistic estimate of future employment land, which led to a greater than necessary housing requirement, which in turn led to large areas of Fylde's farmland and countryside being earmarked unnecessarily for housing.

The Joint Statement issued by the ten groups focussed on what they saw as the overall problem which was the Council's failure to "present for consultation an evidenced and justified assessment of the number of new homes required for the period to 2030."

They argued - as had the Minority Report - that the calculations were based on obsolete and flawed data, and that Fylde should have produced its own housing requirement numbers.

They also noted that Fylde's own figure will not be produced until the final stage of consultation in March 2014 - just before the final draft goes to the Secretary of State in May/June 2014, and they argued that would be too late to make the major changes to land allocation and to policies that the groups believe would follow from a lower housing requirement than that which is currently proposed.

The called on the Council to suspend the consultation and withdraw the Preferred Options until it is able to support it with its own declared housing requirement together with its related evidence and reasoned justification. They also called for an amended 'Preferred Options', document, together with the housing requirement, to be re-presented for public consultation.

Readers can follow this link to see the full Joint Statement

It is both robust and measured in its tone.

Although - probably because it is a 'technical planning' matter, it didn't make the Express in Lytham and St Annes, it was reported in the Rural Fylde edition. Cllr Fiddler voiced a willingness to meet with the groups but has not yet managed to make arrangements to do so.

The Joint Statement is another brick in the wall of opposition that is being built to block progress of the plan as it stands.

Despite what one of our readers described as 'a truly epic forensic performance at the inquiry by Councillor Liz Oades', the appeal decision that allowed 320 dwellings on the site of Little Tarnbrick Farm was probably inevitable in the light of the Planning Minister Nick Bowles MP's intention to concrete over most of Fylde (and the rest of the UK) in the misguided believe that increasing the already wildly excessive personal debt levels of UK households will solve the 2008 financial crisis - a problem which was, itself, caused by excessive borrowing and debt at both the personal and Government levels.

We were privy to one resident's email saying the residents of Kirkham has been badly let down by the Fylde Council planning officers who, through capitulation and lack of will to fight the appeal left only a community group, residents, and Town Councillors to face the massed ranks of solicitors and consultants put forward by wealthy developers.

We find that view difficult to disagree with.

Officers did manage to recommend refusal of an application for outline planning permission for up to 49 dwellings on a greenfield countryside site just outside the village boundary of Wrea Green.

They said "Residential development of such areas is contrary to Policy SP2 and so this would require a refusal of the application unless there were material considerations that outweighed the determination of the application in accordance with the development plan."

In all the other recent cases we have seen, officers have unfailingly said that the Mr Boles' National Planning Policy Framework overrules Fylde's local plan when it comes to housing, and they *have* to give permission (just ask the folk in Kirkham and in Wesham about that!).

But this one was considered 'exceptional' because it is (they said) 'unsustainable' (a complicated - and to our mind unmeasurable - concept that allocates wholly artificial 'scores' and 'weightings' to aspects of life such as bus and train frequencies, distances to doctors and dentists and so on, to produce what is claimed to be an objective measure of 'sustainability')

Not that we support the application. We don't. We don't believe there is need for anything like the scale of housing that FBC believes is appropriate.

But there does seem to be a degree of interpretive flexibility applied to this (and previous) Wrea Green applications that has not been employed to refuse applications elsewhere.

And we suspect that's probably the logic that gave rise to Cllr Armit's suggestion as reported in the Gazette that it looked as though Wrea Green had 'protected status' when he urged Fylde's Development Management Committee to go against their officer's advice and approve this latest application

In the face of this assertion, rural stalwart from nearby Singleton, Cllr Mrs Chew, was lauded for her stance in disagreeing with him, and defending the village against development.

The great danger in all of this - as with most planning policy - is that it all comes down to interpretation.

And for better or worse, the UK has allowed itself to sleepwalk into a position where, at Borough level, only employed officers can be relied upon to undertake and provide the true interpretation of such matters (because they wrote them)

 This is not unlike a status granted to priests (and charlatans) of old.

Sadly, we were not able to get to Fylde's Development Management Committee meeting to produce a detailed report of proceedings, and even more sadly, Fylde did not manage to make a video for webcasting - something about the camera only recording the first 45 minutes - we understand. That's a shame, because it sounds to have been quite lively and interesting.

Fylde seems to be having trouble with videoing its Development Management Committee meetings because the previous one (also reported to be a lively meeting) seems to have a gap of time between recording 4 and 5 (Normally the sections follow on from each other word perfectly). At this stage, it's not clear what took place in the 'missing minutes'.

What seemed certain from the refusal of this latest Wrea Green application was that there was likely to be appeal against Fylde's decision, and if there was, it's quite possible that the Planning Inspectorate would roll it into the 'Super Inquiry' they have recently declared for several other developments in Wrea Green.

These are:

  • Appeal 2196494 12/0456 Land rear 54 Bryning Lane, Wrea Green: 25 homes
  • Appeal 2200215 13/0137 Land East of Bryning Lane (adjacent No 53), Wrea Green: Up to 32 homes
  • Appeal 2200856 12/0720 Land South of Moss Side Lane, Wrea Green: Approximately 50 homes

In early summer, the applicants for each of the above appeals - together with Fylde's planning officers - convinced the Planning Inspectorate that these planning appeals should be conducted using the 'written representations' procedure

This is where everyone involved (applicant, council and other interested parties) submits their arguments in writing, then (probably) gets to add further comment when they see what others have said, before the Inspector makes a decision based on the written information s/he has been given.

The same Inspector was appointed for all 3 appeals and he visited all the sites this November.

Then, in what was a quite unexpected move, the Inspector concluded that there must be a local public inquiry to hear all 3 appeals in one go.

We understand that one of the appellants has now written to the Planning Inspectorate asking for the written representations method to be restored because of the potential cost of engaging a barrister and expert planners to inform their appeal,

This latest application for housing development at Wrea Green: (13/0507 Land at North View Farm Wrea Green: Up to 49 homes) was refused as per the officer's recommendations - which were consistent with the previous 3 applications - and that this developer has now submitted an appeal against Fylde's refusal of permission, so it's quite likely this too will be added into the inquiry.

If that happens, it could make things seriously expensive in terms of costs if there is (potentially) a barrister and maybe 4 to 6 technical experts called as witnesses on each of the four appeals being heard.

With barristers and technical witnesses there could be 24 planning experts ranged to argue the case against Fylde.

To Warton Parish Council, where community group Warton Residents Against Poor Planning (WRAPP) - having done a first class job mobilising opposition to the avalanche of planning applications that either Fylde's Planning Officers or Cllr Trevor Fiddler (or both) have brought down upon them - were looking for closer co-operation with the Parish Council.

We reported the earlier public meeting (actually a Parish Meeting) run by the Parish Council where WRAPP had done a monumental job in alerting residents, and were rewarded with 600 people attending. This and a subsequent petition gave the Parish Council a popular mandate to reject the Local Plan as it impacts the village at the special meeting on 27th August; and to oppose the Riversleigh planning application for 85 houses.

Since then WRAPP have become an even greater force to be reckoned with, and reputedly have an organisation that can deliver a leaflet to every home in Warton within two hours. That's no mean feat, and one that some party political groups would struggle to meet.

At the Parish Council meeting, we listened as a lady called Sally spoke in the 'Public Platform' of the meeting. She said she had come the Parish Council meeting representing WRAPP to find some common ground as to how they could support the Parish Council in the fight to retain village status for Warton.

All very nice - and a cleverly non-threatening introduction - we thought.

She went on to explain how WRAPP had engaged with residents to raise awareness of the Local Plan and major planning applications, and encouraged everyone in the village to get more involved in Parish Council business and to support the Parish Council.

She said WRAPP had provided a good deal of constructive input for the Parish Council debates on the Local Plan and the planning applications, and this had resulted in compliments from parish councillors for the research they had undertaken to support various arguments.

Like the Parish Council, Sally noted the majority of residents were not against development, just against the scale of development envisaged in the Local Plan.

She said that communities across the country were failing to make their voice heard and stem the tide of developers. Increasingly Parish Councils and resident groups were coming together in order to achieve better outcomes for their communities.

Citing the local examples she said Wrea Green PC shared their website with SWAG, and Kirkham had its forum of Town Councillors, Borough Councillors and Residents which is trying to steer and influence overall planning and development policy, and to work with local authorities and developers to ensure proposals are right for their area.

She went on to suggest that Warton's proposed Neighbourhood Plan should be the longer term vehicle for ensuring that residents views were represented, but added that the timescales for completing the Neighbourhood Plan would be too late for Warton, at least as far as the immediate threat of house building and loss of countryside is concerned.

WRAPP wanted to work with, and support, the Parish Council in lobbying and in preparing evidence to present to FBC in respect of: Warton-specific stakeholder reviews; any revised Local Plan, and individual planning applications as and when they are submitted to the DMC.

In a particularly telling section she said WRAPP understood that Parish Councillors were time-constrained, pressed by other demands, and had limited resources. But WRAPP was not so time-constrained and had just one remit. They also had resources and a good network of volunteers. They were building a core team of people who have, for the past 3 months, been getting to grips with the different subject areas such as Environment, Agriculture, Infrastructure, Employment, Housing Needs, etc. and are developing the knowledge and expertise to be able to argue effectively from an factual planning basis.

WRAPP was now seeking a joint approach with the Parish Council to ensure the best use of resources, knowledge, skills and experience in order to make the fullest representations to Planning Officers in the coming weeks and months. It would also better inform those Borough, Ward and Parish Councillors that will hopefully be speaking at DMC meetings in support of the wishes of Warton residents.

She went on to suggest how closer co-operation might work, tying the interests of specific Parish Councillors to the issues that needed to be addressed, but said WRAPP were open to, and would welcome hearing how the Parish Council thought WRAPP could provide support in a symbiotic relationship looking toward outcomes such as lobbying of FBC, LCC, local MP etc, and presentations to both DMC and in respect of changes to the Local Plan

She concluded by saying this was an honest offer of help from WRAPP – with no strings attached, and no hidden agenda. She restated that WRAPP was not a political organisation, just residents who have been asked to represent the views and wishes of the vast majority of the village.

We thought she did an excellent job, and frankly that the Parish Council would be foolish to turn down their generous offer to produce evidence that both organisations could use for their mutual benefit.

We thought the body language and nods of apparent approval from Parish Councillors during her presentation set a tone that was all very warm and supportive.

But that only made it worse when the matter was discussed later in the agenda and some (one in particular) led what appeared to us to be quite strong rowing-back of what had appeared to be support for WRAPP's suggestion in the public participation part.

Quite honestly we were very disappointed, and gained the clear impression that one at least (and possibly another parish councillor to whom he kept looking - as if for approval) had an underlying concern that was not being made public. We're not at all suggesting that either *did* have a hidden agenda, but that it appeared to us as though something was going unsaid.

We thought there seemed to be a lack of a will to get as close as some other parish councils had become to their community groups.

We thought that was a shame. The people in WRAPP are incredibly well organised and responsible. They are becoming well informed and knowledgeable, They are prepared to devote more time than can possibly be available to any busy councillor, they can have a single focus and become technical experts. The Parish Council could benefit hugely from working closely with them.

But in return for what seemed to us like a genuine open offer from them we got the impression that some (but not all) PC members kicked sand in their faces, and if we were one of their organisers we wouldn't have been at all happy.

We joined others in the public gallery in a bout of gentle head shaking in disbelief as the rowing back took place in the face of an offer of help.

Setting the seal on the matter was a (properly cautious, but nevertheless unfortunate) comment from the Clerk that if the Parish Council put a link on their website to the WRAPP website, then WRAPP should publish a disclaimer on thir site saying WRAPP's views were not necessarily the views of the Parish Council.

We thought the comment added insult to injury, especially when a few minutes later, the Parish Council agreed to allow advertising on its own website - without requiring any sort of disclaimer from the advertiser and (potentially at least) without agreeing any sort of restriction on what form that advertising could take (we can think of many forms of advertisement that a Parish Council would not like to be associated with.

So we, and probably the lady from WRAPP were disappointed with the distancing that was apparent, and both sides will have a difficult balancing act to manage as this situation develops further.

Perhaps the first test will be to see if WRAPP is invited to become part of the Parish Council's 'Warton Neighbourhood Plan Committee'.

We noted that, following Fylde's designation of great splodges of red-coloured housing areas all around Warton in the consultation draft version of its Local Plan, Planning Portfolio Holder Trevor Fiddler now says he is surprised and disappointed that planning applications are now being submitted for those areas.

We have to ask - what on earth did he expect after he had agreed that Warton should be proposed as one of the biggest growth areas in Fylde?

Did he really think no-one would notice until the final version of the plan was published?

With developers right across Fylde doing passable impressions of the WW2 Axis advance through Europe, soaking up potential building land whilst Nick Boles and the Coalition shines, did he not see what was always going to happen?

The latest of these advances is what he calls a 'speculative application' for 45 acres of land around Blackfield End Farm, and named 'Blackfield Green'  by Hallam Land (part of the Henry Boot empire) which could see up to 360 homes built.

Whilst the blame for allowing planning appeals lies with the Government, it's clear to us that the blame for creating honeypots to attract developers sits squarely with the Fylde Borough Councillors who voted to approve the Preferred Options document with red spodges all around Warton.

Those councillors were: Councillors Brenda Ackers, Ben Aitken, Christine Akeroyd, Frank Andrews, Tim Armit, Tim Ashton, Fabian Craig-Willson, David Donaldson, David Eaves, Susan Fazackerley, Trevor Fiddler, Tony Ford, Gail Goodman, Nigel Goodrich, Angela Jacques, Cheryl Little, Barbara Nash, Edward Nash, Albert Pounder, Dawn Prestwich, Richard Redcliffe, Thomas Threlfall, Vivienne M Willder.

Fylde has approved applications for 162 houses, a supermarket, retail, and a pub on the former Stocks and Bonds prefab site at Heyhouses.

As part of the moves to produce the Local Plan, Fylde decided that it would not agree to redundant employment land being used for residential purposes. They wanted to keep it for employment.

This choice has put huge pressure on the development of countryside sites, and to us, it means the Heyhouses development probably shouldn't have been approved at all.

In reality, what it shows, is that Fylde's policies apply when they want them to.

As the Jones Homes schemes progress (the ones that look as though they could become a series of salami-slice applications), Staining has been blessed with yet another planning application.

This time it's the Co-op (Technically the Co-Operative Group) who have applied for outline planning application for what they call 'a high quality residential development of up to 30 dwellings off Kings Close.'

From their application form, it looks as though the Co-Op own a large area of land and let it out to a tenant farmer.

Given the financial trouble the Co-Op is in at present, you can perhaps understand why they might want to raise some cash by shifting the status of some land they own from Agricultural land at maybe £10,000 an acre, to building land - at maybe £1 million an acre.

The site in question is roughly at the back of the Co-Op store on the roundabout in Staining, but is more northward - toward Poulton. The area applied for runs behind the houses on Kings Close. However, we understand that the Co-op own a much larger area along the whole of the eastern edge of Staining village, so maybe we will see yet more salami in Staining.

The Parish Council has objected in the strongest possible terms, and begins its objection with 'Once again Staining Parish Council is asked to consider another unnecessary planning application for “high quality" housing we neither want nor need. There is already permission granted for over 70 dwellings, fewer than 20 have been completed with less than 10 occupied. The number of dwellings for sale in the village has increased over 2013 thus increasing the number of properties available to buy or rent.'

Another part of Staining parish lies within the Blackpool boundary, and Blackpool Council have recently refused permission to develop just seven bungalows on land at the rear of Broad Oak lane near Marton mere.

At that rate, we wonder if Staining would be better ditching its support for Fylde and asking for a boundary change to put all the village in Blackpool.

Under the company name of Mill Farm Ventures Limited, football entrepreneur and businessman David Haythornthwaite has submitted plans to build a 32 acre development referred to as a "Sports and Science Park" on green land between the entrance to Wesham and the former Fairfield Experimental Horticulture Station.

Its application number at Fylde is 13/0655 and it is described as a 'hybrid' application with Full planning permission sought for a 6,000 capacity football ground for AFC Fylde, warehousing and distribution centre facilities, a 'neighbourhood retail store' together with landscaping, roads and parking.

It also seeks Outline (in principle) permission for a sports science building, a full size outdoor floodlit football pitch, a multi-use artificial floodlit training pitch, three all weather floodlit five-a-side pitches, a six pump petrol filling station, a 'bulky goods' non-food retail use; a hotel, a pub, and a drive through restaurant

Earlier in the year, the company held a public exhibition, and readers can follow this link to see the illustration layout used in that consultation as supplied by one of our readers,

Our reader also gave us their impression of the event which began with sadness that nearby residents of Wesham had not been leafleted about it, they had to pick it up from an advert in the paper.

They told us that with the personalities involved, they had hoped they might see balloons, dancing girls and general razzmatazz, but were disappointed to find they had to make do with what they described and an uninspiring sight of five or six pasteboards propped up against the wall on trestle tables in the corner of the hall.

There was a scale model present, along with suited and booted individuals present to answer questions, but our reader thought they seemed reluctant to come forward and engage, and the event had a feel of being a 'For Your Information' session rather than for seeking views.

That said, we understand there was a comments form where people could leave their views and opinions.

There were no actual plans available at that time because the application was not due to be submitted to the Planning System at Fylde until October.

One of consultants was asked about highway issues which generated the reply was that LCC Highways had been consulted and there were no real issues.

Our reader lives in the Kirkham/Wesham area and told us that from the artist’s impression of the site, a number of issues were of concern, to them, including the plan to include an Aldi supermarket, and how this would affect Kirkham. (An Aldi representative was present at the event).

Our reader's concern was that - given how Morrison’s had revitalised Kirkham - if Aldi removed some of the footfall from Kirkham (and maybe also from the Co-Op in Wesham too) that could only be bad news for Kirkham (and Wesham).

That said, we think including Aldi is a clever move on the part of the applicant as it will be an attractive proposition to some people to have an Aldi store, and will probably go some way to reduce public opposition to the scheme.

Our reader also asked about the term 'Science' Park and was advised the science bit refers to 'sports science' (which most of our readers might know as enjoying the less sexed-up descriptions of physiotherapy, fitness, and nutrition).

They were also told the proposed pub/restaurant and hotel were "purely aspirational", and, as our reader said, "given that there are three pubs locally, and two pub/restaurants within spitting distance, one with a hotel component, they thought this seemed "*very* aspirational - if not pie in the sky."

Our reader's conclusions from the event were that "with football gate attendances in the low hundreds at Fylde FC, the proposed industry for the site is the cash cow by which the sports stadium will survive."

From the information on the illustration it looks to us as though about one third is sportsfields and the rest parking, industry, commercial, or retail. The illustration itself puts a different gloss on this breakdown and readers can judge for themselves using the link above.

It's close to the motorway and therefore well located in that regard, and it might well be a profitable development to create wealth for its promoters and have the added benefit of providing some use by local teams.

The essential question in this, and in the other applications and appeals in this article, is whether we are now at a stage where our town planning and land use designation is decided according to a balanced rational land-use plan, or whether planning is to be a developer-led process defined by the transient vagaries of opportunistic land acquisition and the potential for profit?

Nick Boles and the present Coalition Government seem to prefer the latter.

We once saw an awful landscape that had resulted from the unfettered pursuit of profit at the lowest cost (in Essex) and, despite the connotations of soviet-style planning that its detractors advance, speaking personally, we'd much prefer to stay with the idea of a planned use of land.

But we're in danger of digressing yet again.... So we'll go back to the industrio-leisure site that's just south of 'Fairfield'

In the 'Preferred Option' draft of the Local Plan it's referred to as 'Land south of Junction 3, at Greenhalgh for employment', and it refers to this land as having been identified in the 'Employment Land and Premises Study' commissioned by Fylde and produced in August 2012.

That study makes two comments, the first is about the area in general and it says "The Greenhalgh with Thistleton Parish Council area includes Junction 3, M55. The Parish Council notes that an (unnamed) party is understood to have acquired land around Junction 3, with a view to pursuing industrial or housing development. The Parish Council is concerned about the possible loss of greenfield land in this area and intends to oppose any development proposals which might be submitted for planning approval."

Later it looks in more detail at several areas around Junction 3 and with regard to the land that is now being proposed for the Sports Science Park, it concludes with some recommended possible uses. It says:

  • "Suitable uses:  Property here would have the dual functions of providing a motorway employment area and meeting local needs.
  • The development would therefore be a mix of larger B1(a-c)/B2 units [B1 is Offices, research and development, light industry that would be appropriate in a residential area. B2 is general industrial use] to meet sub-regional/regional requirements for motorway related property, and
  • smaller B1(a-c) and B8 accommodation [B8 is storage and distribution] aimed at local firms.
  • This would also be a good location for larger B8 logistics units although, as discussed previously, there is no evidence of strong demand for distribution warehousing in Fylde at the moment."

We don't remember seeing this area allocated for sport or sports science in the draft Local Plan, and likewise, it's not mentioned for sport / recreation use in Fylde's 'Employment Land and Premises Study' so we're a bit puzzled as to how much support this scheme will get from Councillors.

No doubt time will tell.

Although it's a bit late in the day, we understand a new opposition group has been formed to fight the plans. They have a website called Save Wesham and Kirkham (SWAK) and we understand they have  Wesham Town Council is hosting a public meeting with a presentation followed by an open 'listening to views' session at the Wesham Community Centre at 6:30 on Friday 13th December where it's said residents can make their views known.

And, indeed about the house, or rather, about housing.

Our MP Mark Menzies tabled a question on planning. His question was: "To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps he is taking to ensure that planning inspectorates consider the importance of localism when assessing local plans."

Planning Minister Nick Boles MP replied

"We have put local plans at the centre of the planning system as the means for local people and local firms to shape how and where development should and should not take place.

The Localism Act has abolished top-down regional strategies and limited the discretion of planning inspectors to insert their own wording into local plans. It also ensures that rather than focussing on reporting progress in making plans to central Government, local authorities focus on reporting progress to local communities.

During the inquiry into the draft Local Plan, planning inspectors are expected to check carefully that local authorities have made an objective assessment of local needs and that their draft Local Plan makes adequate provision for sustainable development to meet those needs.

A local authority can draft its plan to reflect local opinions on how and where to meet those needs. The inspectors should rigorously assess the evidence to ensure it is objective and listen carefully to all sections of the community before making a judgment on that evidence."

We've reproduced that 'Q and A'  verbatim from Hansard.

To show up the subtle policy differences that arise over time, we now contrast Mr Boles reply with the following quotations from St Eric Pickles MP (also sourced from Hansard) in the debate on the Localism Bill in the House of Commons on 17 Jan 2011 (before it became an Act)

"Councils have been drowning in red tape and rules and paralysed by a culture of centralism. Those that want to break the mould and innovate continually run the risk of legal challenge. The Bill will restore town halls to their former glory. There was a time when local councils really were the centre of a community-when the local councillor was revered and honoured as a local person of importance and local government got things done, improved public health, cut poverty and ended slum housing. That is the sort of courage and ambition that we need in councils today."

"The Bill pushes power out as far as possible into communities and neighbourhoods, into the hands of individuals and community groups. For too long, local groups, community associations and even ordinary men and women on the street with a good idea and a desire to make their neighbourhood a better place to live, have been ignored and left out. They have no rights and no chance to have their voice heard. It is hardly surprising that even the most dedicated activist gets frustrated, let alone a concerned mum who just wants to see her street kept clean or a group of friends who are worried about a local pub that is under threat. We are giving people new rights, powers and opportunities to act on the issues that matter."

"For years, Ministers sat in their Departments hoarding power like misers. Occasionally, grudgingly and with deep resentment, they might have loosened their grip on the reins of power, only to tighten it almost immediately. Uniquely, they managed to fulfil the wildest dreams of both Sir Humphrey Appleby and Mr Joseph Stalin. That strangled the life out of local government, so councils can barely get themselves a cup of tea without asking permission. It forced a central blueprint on everything from local public services to housing and planning, regardless of what local people want or need. It left councillors hamstrung, front-line public servants frustrated and residents out in the cold."

"The Bill will return the planning system to the people. Targets do not build homes, and regional plans do not get communities involved. Today, we have an adversarial, confrontational system, fomented on mistrust and a sense of powerlessness. It is simply not working. The Bill will therefore create genuine neighbourhood planning, by which the community will develop in ways that make sense for local people. Instead of instructions being handed down from on high, the Bill will offer incentives to invest in growth. Instead of unelected commissioners making national decisions on important national infrastructure, those choices will again be down to democratically elected Ministers in this House."

"By pushing power out, getting the Government out of the way and letting people run their own affairs, we can build a stronger, fairer Britain. We can restore civic pride, rebuild democratic accountability, promote economic growth and replace big government with the big society. I commend the Bill to the House."

And we conclude with a quotation from the Municipal Journal on 8th December 2010

"Mr Pickles told The MJ, swaths of existing council powers and central government granted permissions could be swept from the statute books because they would become ‘redundant’..

Mr Pickles said the idea is to ensure councils ‘become the deliverers of genuine local government’ and ‘do not simply administer decisions and laws handed down by central government’.

‘For too long, local government has been restricted by the powers it has been handed from the centre. I’m saying to them ‘you’re in charge locally, go and deliver what is in the interest of your communities,’ he said."

How times change, don't they?

Dated:  06 December 2013


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