Plan appeals system ‘unfair’

Anna Worthington-Leese - Chairman of Storrington Parish Council
Anna Worthington-Leese - Chairman of Storrington Parish Council

A parish council has called the system of planning appeals ‘completely undemocratic, unjustifiable and unfair’ in a letter to the Secretary of State for Planning.

Storrington and Sullington Parish Council chairman, Anna Worthington-Leese, sent the letter to MP Nick Boles last week to address the parish’s and community’s ‘overwhelming feeling’ about green field developments and the power of the planning inspectorate over elected officials.

The letter states: “By the time an application is allowed or refused it has been considered very carefully, not only by experienced and qualified planning officers, but also by up to 35 elected members representing the electorate.

“If refused, this can then be overturned by one, unelected, paid employee of the Government.”

This comes after a public meeting, held at Rydon Community College in June, when more than 300 residents and a panel of officials, including MP Nick Herbert and Mrs Worthington-Leese, debated the issue.

The letter continues: “I would ask the questions: how is this democratic? How is it fair and how can it be justified?

“Elected members make a decision, which is then overturned by an unelected employee…

“The only decisions that should be overturned are those where the process has not been followed correctly.”

Also copied to MP Nick Herbert, who supports the Government’s new Localism Act, the letter asks how the Act will ‘equate with a system where those local decisions can be overturned’.

“If this Government really wants recognition for giving people local power then there must be a real commitment to accept decisions made locally and not interfere if they are not in line with Government thinking.”

The parish council is awaiting a response from Mr Boles.

Last week 13 parish councils told the County Times that they would formulate a ‘neighbourhood plan’ as requested by the Government for its Localism Act. The Act will allow parishes and residents to stipulate where they would like developments to take place in their town or village. Storrington and Sullington Parish Council announced it would cluster with Washington Parish Council for this process.