Yesterday I went to another planning committee meeting, or as it is called these days ‘development control’.
This time I was interested in an application for some flats and a shop just a hundred metres or so from our house, on the other side of Tollgate Hill, but it was really a wasted evening.
When it came to this application (which was marked as recommended for refusal) the planning officer said that the applicant had indicated he might be able to address the concerns of the planners and the item was deferred until the next meeting to give them time to make changes.
I had a word with the planning officer afterwards to find out a bit more about the application and have a quick look at the plans. It turns out that the applicant is not the same company who already have permission for a slightly different shop/flats development: they have sold the land on to someone else, who felt they could squeeze a little more out of the land.
I thought the design didn’t look too bad, although the shop didn’t look quite as pleasant as the earlier proposal. We really do need a shop down in our part of Broadfield, so I hope the designers, planners and committee can get their act together and come up with something acceptable to everyone.
The facilities at the meeting have deteriorated significantly since just a few weeks ago. The screen was broken and a portable one set up behind the chairman, and the sound system appears to have packed up completely. At the back we could hardly hear a word spoken by anyone, which did not help the mood of the public who were there.
In spite of the appalling state of the audio visuals, the meeting went quite well. The people who were interested in a phone mast at Langley Green and an extension in Furnace Green went away very unhappy. Obviously the members have to make whatever decision they do with regard to planning laws rather than the mood of the public, but perhaps there could be greater effort to explain this: from the back it does seem pretty clinical and impersonal. I’m sure it was no better under my control, and any explanations would have lost a lot through having to be shouted to be heard, but its interesting to see it all from the public’s perspective again. If I ever find myself sitting on that committee again I am going to do things differently than I did before as a result.
I was a little disappointed when one member took the opportunity to make a cheap party political dig towards the end (and ashamed that it was a Labour member). There is no need for that in a development control meeting. Also I was amazed to see that one of the members who always leaves before the end did it again. Even though there were only 9 applications, and 8 had been decided fairly quickly, and the remaining application was extremely straightforward and would obviously only take a few minutes, he still left. Is it some sort of personal challenge to never stay to the end?
I guess I’ll find out when I go back in three weeks to see if our local shop is ever going to get built.