5th Dec, 2016

System puts planners in straitjacket

Joshua Godfrey 30th Oct, 2015 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

A LEADING Pershore councillor has hit out at the Government’s planning policy and described it as ‘institutional blindness to common sense’.

Coun Charles Tucker, a prominent Liberal Democrat councillor on Wychavon District Council, told the Observer planning officers are being backed into a corner over the National Planning Policy Framework brought in by the Coalition Government.

The framework provides guidance for local councils and ministers claim the planning process has become less complex and more accessible has a result of the reforms.

But Coun Tucker said the system has prevented planning officers from reaching the best outcome on applications and instead has given developers the upper hand.

“It’s the system which the officers are expected to follow, which has been turned upside down since the Tories introduced the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) during the Coalition,” Coun Tucker said.

“Lib Dems were pretty unhappy about it, as were a lot of Tory councillors, but Tory Eric Pickles bears the responsibility – he wouldn’t allow Lib Dems in his department after the first year.

“I describe it as institutional blindness to common sense, or placing our planners in a straight jacket which prevents them seeking the best outcome.

“The ball is firmly in the developers’ court and woe betide a planning officer who exercises his mind. So you get the ludicrous position that officers are more concerned about trees and bats than local people.”

The Lib Dem councillor also said planning officers now have to accept applications even if they may not be good developments.

“Now, our Planners just wait for an application and judge it on the basis of whether it will cause significant harm,” he added.

“Instead of requiring good quality development, councillors are told we have to accept anything that’s not demonstrably bad.”

Coun Rob Adams, portfolio holder for Planning Policy, Infrastructure and Flooding on Wychavon District Council, said: “It’s fair to say Wychavon has been subject to a large amount of speculative development across the district in recent years.

“That is why our focus is on getting the SWDP adopted as soon as possible – something that is in line with and actively encouraged by the National Planning Policy Framework.

“This will give us more control and the power to resist unjustified and speculative development,” he added.