Since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework. the voting system operated by Ribble Valley Borough Council’s planning committee has become nothing more than a farce and is wasting the resources of the council in terms of time and costs.
The planning committee, chaired by a Whalley councillor, comprises three Clitheroe councillors and 12 who I shall term “rural” councillors.
Of the 12, only three represent wards which have a contiguous boundary with the township of Clitheroe, i.e. Waddington, Whalley and Wiswell, which leaves nine whose wards could not be adversely affected by a large scale development in any of the Clitheroe wards.
So the voting is heavily weighted in favour of councillors representing the rural wards, which is now working to a great disadvantage for the residents of Clitheroe.
To take the example of a recent case which came before the committee – that of Standen – the voting was: three Clitheroe councillors plus two rural councillors voted against, while nine rural councillors, of which only three represented wards which had a contiguous boundary with Clitheroe, voted in favour.
A similar situation arose in the case of the Henthorn Road South application.
No-one can be so completely naive as to contend the “NIMBY” factor did not carry these votes and there is little doubt the rural councillors will continue to vote in this manner on the assumption that if most of the housing development required by the core strategy takes place in Clitheroe, their wards will not be subject to unwanted development.
How can this system of voting now be considered unbiased, just and democratic?
As things stand, Clitheroe will take a disproportionate amount of the housing required by the NPPF/core strategy, which its infrastructure is incapable of sustaining, to the great disadvantage of current residents.
To redress this situation a new system of voting is required and I suggest something along the lines of the following: When an application for outline planning approval in a Clitheroe ward is submitted only councillors representing Clitheroe wards should be allowed to vote.
Those representing rural wards should be denied the vote, except that those councillors representing wards with a contiguous boundary with Clitheroe would be allowed a vote if they could present a substantial case that the proposed development would have a significant adverse effect on their ward.
It is also my contention that planning officers should not make a recommendation to the committee, but should simply give their expert advice on the pros and cons of an application to the councillors concerned.
Only in this way can the residents of Clitheroe have their views and wishes heard, considered and acted upon and their democratic rights restored.
In view of the situation as I have described it, my view is that the residents of Clitheroe and the Town Council should make their feelings known in no uncertain terms – and insist that this injustice be rectified.