Complaint made over Sinah DMC Meeting
The Council’s Development Management Committee’s (DMC) October 29th meeting concerning Sinah Lane APP/18/00724 has resulted in a formal complaint to Havant Borough Council by a resident Deputee with full backing of fellow Hayling Deputees. The reason was the failure by those responsible during the meeting to properly discuss issues presented in the 8 Deputations against the Application. The conduct and content of debate does nothing to instil confidence in either some of the voting Councillors or Officers. More detailed comment on these proceedings is available on Havant Civic Society website under “‘Development Management’ through the looking glass”.
In addition to proceedings and poor knowledge issues, this DMC blatantly revealed the extent to which our local democracy is skewed by top-down central Government planning policy. It may be encouraging that Government has made Planning u-turns (Nov. 16th), apparently heeding influential complainants fearful of either losing their parliamentary seats, or the absurdity of a policy enforcing housing without land, or a policy reducing Affordable Homes for the needier north of England. What continues however is the imposition of the existing inflated housing allocations for which jobs and sustainable infrastructure don’t exist and for which there is no likelihood. Coupled with this is the absurdity that if local authorities reject a Planning Application on properly sustainable grounds, the Government Inspector has over-ridden councils, removing their ability to negotiate developers’ moneys to pay for improved infrastructure. Please note that such moneys are not ring-fenced for the development’s locality but spent where the council decides.
Cllr. Satchwell’s Deputation, together with 7 others, explained the critical issues inherent in the Sinah Application and wider Hayling. But of the five voting Councillors, only Cllr. Lloyd demonstrated any preparation of the Application papers, issued well in advance, and grasp of these issues. She flagged up the numerous unresolved ‘constraints’ raised by the Application, requesting officers’ explanations; when these were clearly wanting or even contradictory, she clarified that the site’s unsustainability meant she could not support the Application.
In contrast it was shocking to hear an influential Councillor argue that Councillors should simply accept their Officers’ guidance as “we are not the experts”, that’s why “we employ them”. The Councillor continued “if we don’t follow [Officers’] advice then the Secretary of State will make the decision” and if the Application “goes to Appeal and the SoS grants [it] we will lose all the ability to implement planning decisions ...money and we lose control..”. One other Councillor amplified this argument that the central Government Inspector will permit building in land that local authorities had found unsuitable. A most revealing statement made by Cllr. Guest early in the debate was that “our obligations are to central Government of which we are a part”. It was he who repeatedly, even during the vote, urged Councillors to approve the Application.
It was refreshing to hear Cllr. Lloyd’s riposte: “we are here to represent the residents of the borough”, and apply “common sense”. I have written to Alan Mak MP, asking him to intercede with the Government to stop this damaging threat to our local democracy by trusting our Councillors to listen to local residents’ well-founded concerns and safely, without fear, refuse a Planning Application.