- There should be clear, timely notification of the speaking rules at planning meetings given to applicants and interested parties.
- Site notices should used in a greater proportion of applications, and should contain more details of how to have your say.
- Site notices should be placed in prominent places*.
It should not be necessary to make these suggestions, but from what I have seen recently in Cambridge these simple elements which enable people to participate in the planning process need improvement.
I wrote to a planning officer on a specific case today:
I am writing to you as you are identified as the “Agenda Item Officer” for planning application 07/1366/FUL, the erection of a car port at 287 Chesterton Road.
I attended Cambridge City Council’s North Area Committee on the 6th of March 2008 where the application was considered. The applicant was present and complained that he had only been notified of the meeting date today, due to this he did not have an opportunity to speak in favor of his own application. I have seen this happen a number of times now where applicants attend planning meetings and are not allowed to speak, as they have not been aware of or able to comply with the speaking rules. Could you let me know if and why he was notified so late?
The applicant stated that his application had the support of all his immediate neighbors, however none submitted representations. I wonder if the awareness of the application and the processes by which the applicant and his neighbors could have had their say would have been improved had their been a site notice? I know having visited the site that there was no site notice, and this is also noted in the report to the meeting.
Could you let me know why there would not be a site notice for an application such as this? Could site notices, and other notifications include the dates and speaking rules for planning meetings?
I saw the councillors briefly consider deferring considering the application on the basis that the applicant hadn’t had an opportunity to have his say, but conclude they had no grounds on which not to consider the application.
I feel the process has failed the applicant and his neighbors, and will have left them with a bad impression of the City council and the functioning of local democracy, the decision of the councillors might well have been different if they were in the possession of more representations.
*For example the site notice for the development of a detached house at 48 Enniskillen Road, I believe could also have been placed on Green End Road (The development is in the Garden of a house on Green End Road).
Reply received 7th March 2008:
Dear Richard Taylor,
Thank you for your correspondence. According to our records, a letter advising the applicant that the item was to be reported to the 6th March Committee meeting was sent on the 23rd February. I cannot of course confirm when it was received but it was sent 2nd class post and should have arrived well in advance of the meeting.
A site notice in respect of the matter was not posted as this is not required for householder applications that are not within Conservation Areas. I note your comments regarding neighbour representations but I can only report comments that are received by the Authority. No such comments had been received at the time I drafted my report.
I am sorry that you feel disappointed by the process but ultimately the decision was for Councillor’s to consider and they considered the development to be unacceptable. The applicant does have the right to appeal against the Council’s decision to the Planning Inspectorate and will be advised as to how to go about this when the decision notice is issued.
I trust this clarifies the matter.