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When is a plan not a plan?


Simon Brown
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I congratulate the villagers of Lugwardine on their victory, as described by Nigel Shore in the Hereford Times of December 5th. In his letter Mr Shore contends that some planning committee councillors expressed frustration that there is no five year housing land supply, which results in the “emasculation†of council decision making. It does, but who is to blame for that? The very same councillors who, despite repeated warnings from such bodies as the Hereford Civic Society and CPRE, have sat there twiddling their thumbs and abjectly failing to put a rocket under the managers responsible. I have asked Mr Ashcroft, via Alistair Neill, so he knows too, why there is no five year land supply. His incomprehensible answer can be seen on my web site www.broadernews.wordpress.com under “Ashcroft Answers (Various)â€. Councillors, get your senior officers under control. Ask the awkward questions, and if you don't get satisfactory answers, sack them. You are elected to be “quality control†Herefordshire County PLC so let's have some quality and some control.

 

Nigel Shore makes reference to Neighbourhood Development Plans (NDPs) saying that building on green field sites will certainly not be favoured in their NDP. This is wishful thinking. NDPs do not have the authority to stop development, prevent it, look disfavourably upon it, or in any way contest the adopted Local Plan, when it eventually arrives, or the National Planning Policy Framework. I have worked endlessly to impress this point upon my own parish council, to no avail. NDPs are not a landscape defence mechanism. They are the opposite. They will, paradoxically, not increase local control, but reduce it because, once adopted, there will be no ability for many locals to object to any development approved by their NDP, which may have been drawn up and adopted by a tiny minority, the ones who actually bothered to take part in the drafting and who voted in the obligatory referendum. The process is protracted, complex, and to be legitimate and meaningful, must run a long and comprehensive consultation, involving, “reaching†a decent percentage of residents, something that Barbara Ferris has been pouring cold water on this week on the same page of the Hereford Times. On top of that, the Local Plan and the NPPF will trump the NDP at every appeal. NDPs are the planning equivalent of painting yourself into a corner, or mortgaging your future right to have many a say for the chance to have a single say now. It is planning bondage, not planning liberty. 

 

Interested parties should have a look at the Report of the Examination of the Cringleford plan which has just been through the inspection phase.http://www.cringlefordparishcouncil.gov.uk/neighbourhood.php They will see that where the residents of Cringleford have included such phrases as “will not be permittedâ€, or “a maximum ofâ€, the inspector has simply ruled them out. Where the residents have clearly been concerned about a particular issue and have recommended constraints in their NDP, the inspector has negated the intention by tacking “except to the extent that this would make needed development unviable†on to the end of the sentence. The promise of having your say is reneged upon by a single shard of planning speak. 

 

Nigel Shore's opinion that Lugwardine residents will actually have an effective say in what goes on in their locale is a commonly held view which I dispute. Again, Mr Ashcroft gives an incomprehensible answer when asked why his guidance notes are at odds with what his commissars are saying out there in the parishes, and again, it's on my web site. Interpretations of Ashcroft speak and counter arguments are welcomed.

With thanks to Bobby and in the belief that these sites we all blog on actually get read by the target: councillors and officers alike. That's who my codswallop is aimed at anyway. 

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A great piece of writing Brown! I can't write like that. If I could, I certainly wouldn't be sat here tapping out this message. I'd be wearing a red satin smoking jacket and a cravat wrapped around my neck telling my literary agent to sod off and bank the cheques.

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