Officials ‘unaccountable’ over house building fiasco

The failure by Ribble Valley Borough Council to have its Core Strategy adopted leaves the floodgates open for further opportunistic development applications.

Friday, 21st February 2014, 1:06 pm

This local plan should have been in place 18 months ago, but was recently rejected for a second time by a government inspector.

I have consistently accused Ribble Valley Borough Council of failing to consult residents regarding new housing development. This recent decision strengthens that argument.

By “consult” I refer to a process in which the public’s input, on matters directly affecting them and thier everyday lives, is sought and then, crucially, actually taken into account during the decision making process.

Without an adopted local plan we are told it is difficult to reject new housing applications. Ribble Valley Borough Council’s planning department formulated the Core Strategy after listening to one side of the story. What a shambles and no wonder some residents are questioning council ethics!

The whole debacle of new housing development, surrounding the Core Strategy, has been derived by RVBC in tandem with land owners and builders. These are the very people who have a vested interest in seeing the Core Strategy fail.

Instead of listening to one side of the argument, residents most affected should have been “consulted”. A local development plan that safeguards the Ribble Valley from unwanted housing applications is vital, but the council consistently fail to get one adopted. A reason the inspector failed this latest attempt of Core Strategy adoption was due to housing distribution. If RVBC had listened to residents, that would not be a stumbling block. Thousands opposed increasing housing numbers to 4,000.

RVBC increased them, and against the wishes of residents and specialist advice, have increased them again, to 5,000. More than 2,000 signatures on a petition objecting to Clitheroe taking more than 25% of the total was also ignored.

The inspector obviously shares the view of Clitheroe residents that it is unfair they are expected to shoulder almost 50% of the Core Strategy housing numbers.

RVBC has never instigated one idea/request from residents during this entire housing charade. That’s not consultation, it’s box ticking!

There was the embarrassment of the Waddow View appeal, which our council said had a zero chance of being refused and declined to contest it. A group of local people presented their objections and won – so much for expert opinion!

If they can get that wrong no wonder the Core Strategy fails.

Not only has the local plan failed to be adopted twice, but hundreds of thousands of pounds of local taxpayer money has been wasted along the way. Perhaps a council official might advise residents how much money has already been spent and how much extra is required to achieve the goal of “third time lucky”!

In the business world this type of incompetence is usually rewarded by a parting of the ways.

Unfortunately, those in charge of defending the borough from excessive housing numbers are not only unapproachable, but now appear unaccountable.