Last night (12th December) a motion concerning Tenter Hill Meadow was put to council by the Lib Dem councillors Hogg & Lillis.
Unfortunately as time ran out I was unable to rise to address the chamber in public and say why I would be voting against it. However I think it only fair to share my reasons with residents.
This was my intended address –
“Mr Mayor. I rise to oppose this motion
“Planning decisions require officers to take into account many documents for example Acts of Parliament, The NPPF, The Core Strategy & & The Local Plan
“Officers consult with a wide spectrum of experts and the public in order to ensure they have all the evidence and opinion necessary to make their recommendation. This ensures the process is legal and ‘Fair’
“Mr Mayor. This is not the time to discuss the Tenter Hill Meadow planning application referred to in this motion, an application refused by the planning & environmental protection committee; however I would like to remind this chamber that as the chair of the committee I am charged with ensuring the hearing follows a particular structure and demonstrates fairness
“Those present at the hearing will recall just how passionate local residents were in wanting to prevent development on land they value so very highly and as chair I granted a considerable time extension to ensure they could all be heard and would feel the process was indeed fair
“To ensure that fairness continued across all parties present, that same time extension was also offered to the applicant’s representatives
“Mr Mayor. The first part of this motion asks that this council resolves to effectively remove an applicant’s fundamental right to appeal a planning decision
“Whilst I fully understand why local residents value and want to secure the area of Tenter Hill Meadow as open space, indeed I am on record myself as supporting Cllr Brian Rush’s motion to refuse the application because of the current lack of open space in Stanground, I am sure that residents would expect councillors to follow a fair process and would agree that the ‘right of an applicant to appeal’ a legal right under planning law, must be protected. To remove that right as this motion requests would set a dangerous precedent denying all future applicants the right to appeal against refusal of a planning application
“The second part of this motion asks council to resolve to totally disregard our local plan and remove an area of land identified for housing
“With respect, any councillor voting in favour of this motion needs to seriously consider what sort of message they are sending out to our city regarding the respect we as a council have for the proper planning process and the fairness of the right of appeal?
From reading the recent wording used on social media by Cllr Hogg, it is my opinion that this is an ill-considered political stunt shamelessly submitted on the back of local resident’s real concerns purely to gain favour at the up and coming local elections
“Mr Mayor. In summary. This motion calls on council to firstly make a totally unfair decision by seeking to quash the fundamental right of an applicant to appeal a refusal to grant planning permission and secondly, asks us to effectively tear up our properly constituted, council adopted, and government approved local plan
“I cannot support this motion and I urge all those in this chamber to vote against it.
The result of the vote was 28 against, 19 for and 3 abstentions.
The mind boggles as to why two Labour councillors after originally voting against Cllr Rush’s proposal to refuse planning permission then decided to support this motion seeking then to remove the applicants fundamental right to appeal the decision and effectively tear up our local plan?
I haven’t changed my mind about the application and neither have any of my fellow Stanground South colleagues. I truly hope the appeal fails and the land can then be designated an area of community value by local residents once the new local plan is approved by government, but to seek to protect it by removing a fundamental right of appeal and change our current local plan sets a dangerous precedent and is not something I could or would ever support.