LETTER: In defence of Ribble Valley planning officers

In response to criticisms of Ribble Valley Borough Council planning officers in “As I See It” in The Clitheroe Advertiser and Times of September 22nd:

Planning officers face an extremely difficult task when advising councillors on large and complex planning applications, and undertake their responsibilities with the utmost professionalism and within planning guidelines. Their first and main duty is to examine whether a planning application complies with local or national planning policy and guidance – at present over 1,000 pages and extensive case law.

Their second duty is to report representations from interested parties, including residents and statutory bodies, such as Highways, Education, utilities companies and the Environment Agency.

Thirdly, they are required by law to make a recommendation to the council’s Planning and Development Committee for approval, or refusal, based on consideration of planning policies, together with their professional judgement as members of the Royal Town Planning Institute on the weight that should be given to any representations.

The role of councillors differs in allowing them a small degree of flexibility in reaching their decisions, although they are still required to base their decision on local and national planning policy and guidance. The flexibility they have relates to the different weight they can give to any representations.

If, at a subsequent appeal against refusal, a nationally appointed planning inspector considers councillors to have been “unreasonable” when reaching their decision, substantial financial costs could be awarded against the council and ultimately fall on council taxpayers.

MARSHAL SCOTT and COUN. MICHAEL RANSON,

Chief Executive and Leader of Ribble Valley Borough Council