Lea & Cleverton Parish Council Community News page
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Are the Government’s new proposals good for our community? There is emerging, widespread concern about UK government’s proposals for a major reform to speed up the planning and building process which will introduce a new zoning system and digital consultation. The overriding risk is that the voices of local people will be lost under this new process. The need to insist that community views are fully considered through the preparation of Neighbourhood Plans and the constant challenging of planning decisions, has become more urgent than ever.
What happens currently? Below we briefly describe what the Parish Council (PC) does as its day-job to address this issue and, if you are concerned about the future of our Parish, how you can support or even become directly involved with the work of the PC.
Parish Councils are statutory consultees. We therefore receive regular notifications from Wiltshire Council (WC) about new Planning Applications that are made in our parish. We also receive notifications about past applications that have been examined and “determined” by WC.
Our key role in this process is to scrutinise and assess each new application and then seek to ensure the rights and the views of our parishioners are taken into account by WC when deciding to approve or refuse an application.
We assess the implications for the rights of parishioners by testing each application against the requirements of official planning documents. These documents include the national and local planning policies described in the National Planning Policy Framework and Wiltshire Council’s own Local Plan or Core Strategy.
Our judgement of parishioner’s views about each application is based on the many responses and comments we received during the consultation survey carried out throughout the parish in 2019. It is also based on comments received verbally or at meetings during the application consultation period, and on the views expressed by parishioners in “letters of representation” which they may have submitted to WC.
The majority of applications we see are uncontentious and the Parish Council will table a “no objection”, although we may supplement that with comments or requests for clarifications, or for certain conditions to be imposed as part of the approval of the application. Examples of these applications might be modest extension works, or permission to carry out work on problematic trees.
Some applications are contentious, and some we consider to be highly so. We have seriously objected to some ten out of eighty five planning applications submitted in the parish over the past 4 years. In such cases we present as forcible, reasoned and factual an objection as possible. It is worth noting that Parish Councils have no voting rights at the county level and we can only influence planning decisions through public opinion and the strength of our arguments. Almost invariably our local objections are seen as subservient to what are considered by WC to be “material” planning matters.
You can see responses to Planning Applications that the Parish Council makes on both the Parish and Wiltshire Council websites; the former under the minutes of the PC meetings and the latter under the appropriate Planning Application number.
Despite differences of opinion we continue to emphasise that local views are important and continually challenge WC to justify the decisions they make. Once finished and adopted, our Neighbourhood Plan (NP) would give us the teeth we need to insist on local views being taken into account in the planning process. Unfortunately, though our NP is on the verge of coming together, it is in abeyance due to lack of volunteers and support from within the parish.
In order to raise awareness and to inform parishioners what is happening on the planning front, as from July 2021 we would like to publish on our website and Facebook page regular bulletins itemising and summarising the planning applications received and determined during each period. If you think this to be a reasonable and useful idea we would like to hear from you. If you think that planning issues matter, we would very much welcome your participation to discuss planning applications at our bi-monthly PC meetings, or at any of the interim Planning Committee meetings that we often convene.
Better still, if you are interested in how our parish should grow and develop over the next five to ten years, perhaps you would like to consider joining the broad mix of volunteers from the Parish in our Neighbourhood Planning team and on our Parish Council.
Chair Planning Committee, Lea and Cleverton Parish Council