Why the public is losing faith in the planning process | Mark Townsend

Development control, commonly known as planning, is one of the key functions that Burnley Council has responsibility for.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 3:45 pm

Ensuring that our borough develops in a sustainable way to meet the demands of delivering a more prosperous local economy with an increasing population that has ever higher aspirations and expectations.

Elected local councillors are best placed to make these decisions on behalf of residents.

It is alarming therefore that decisions taken locally by councillors can be overturned so easily on appeal by planning inspectors.

Burnley Council leader Mark Townsend

Appointed by national government these unelected and anonymous officials know little of the local area and are unaccountable for their decisions.

Recent examples locally have been the overturning of decisions made locally to turn down development at Vicarage Road in Padiham and reduce housing numbers at the Saxifield site in Briercliffe.

Both applications were subject to rigorous scrutiny by local councillors and yet both were overturned on appeal.

It is little wonder that residents are losing confidence in the planning process.

Government have indicated that to achieve their 1m new homes target that green belt land will need to be used but brownfield should be considered first.

I welcome the brownfield first approach but to back this up Government needs to come forward with the strategy and the money to allow dirty industrial sites to be cleaned up and reused.

Lack of Government support to clean up sites is the biggest barrier to reusing many previous industrial sites in and around Burnley and Padiham making them unviable for developers.

Many residents have been contacting me recently angry about the proposed erection of masts and telegraph poles on their streets to support the roll out of high speed broadband across the borough by a private company.

Unsurprisingly residents believe that the project must have been approved by the council as it has such an impact on their area. This is not the case.

Within a framework established by national government, broadband roll out is treated as permitted development with no need to gain local council approvals.

The council supports the need for ultra-fast broadband infrastructure to support better connectivity and deliver future growth but this has to be achieved through consultation with and the backing of residents.

Impact on our local environment and visible street infrastructure has to be minimised and is best achieved through local decision making and not the broad brush imposition of a national framework.

I, along with other group leaders on the council, signed a letter to Government this week objecting to their direction that councils return to face-to-face meetings from May 7th.

While we are longing to get back in the council chamber, it is wrong for the government to force councillors into crowded confined rooms prior to having more certainty of the safety of all members.

The recommendation from Public Health England is that social distancing should continue after vaccination and this very strange command from central Government when many adults are still to be vaccinated is certainly not in keeping with that advice.

We need to be focused on measures to open up Burnley’s local economy safely and not be diverted onto internal process matters.