The realities of planning law

With reference to the letter from Peter Westrip (WSCT April 11).

As a retired district councillor I have to say that I find it deeply concerning that a prospective candidate for the forth coming HDC By-Election for Chantry Ward should appear to be so uniformed about the realities of planning law and rules; especially when he says that consideration of all planning applications should be halted until ‘air quality control schemes’ are in force. If HDC or any other Council was to do as he suggests that would very much play into developers’ hands; all they would have to do was appeal on the grounds of non-determination and those applications would all be taken out of the council’s hands and decided by a government inspector. I doubt that is really what he wants?

At the same time, he seems to be unaware of the laws of pre-determination that govern the way councillors are required to consider planning applications. Any district councillor making any comment about an application before it comes before a planning committee is deemed to be guilty of pre-determination (making a decision without hearing all the facts), is excluded from the debate and barred from voting on the application. Does Mr Westrip really want his local elected representatives excluded from decisions about their local communities?

In his specific reference to the proposed application for 130 houses in Fryern Road and about making them all ‘affordable’ he again shows lack of knowledge about housing policy; long ago it was agreed that there were advantages to making new developments mixed communities.

There is much debate going on nationally about strategic housing development and like many other planning authorities HDC are in dialogue with Government Ministers about the way forward. Currently only 7 per cent of all councils have approved housing plans in place; something else Mr Westrip seems to have forgotten?

I would remind readers that our county councillor, Frank Wilkinson, has been very proactive locally on all the points Mr Westrip makes in his letter. Even at this early stage, he has already had meetings about the application for 130 homes with County planners and local residents to whom he has made a commitment of strong support.

Many members of the public will have met Frank and other local councillors at the recent air quality consultation exhibition held in Storrington, where they were able to discuss their concerns; your newspaper has also carried comprehensive reports on the progress that is being made on the subject.

Once again I have to express my concern about what appears to be Mr Westrip’s lack of understanding about the realities of life in local government which County, District and Parish Councillors have to deal with on a daily basis.

Chris Mason

Hawthorn Way, Storrington