“Let us, the public, help shape Colne’s future” was the heading of a letter from Sheila Smith and five colleagues in the wake of a protest and getting signatures outside Colne Market in November.
The message was that Pendle Planning Development had given only scant publicity to the Draft Core Strategy’s formal consultations and paid little heed to comments submitted.
Also, that many of Colne’s precious green fields had been allocated for development. They indicated they could suggest much better land allocation. They wanted the pending DCS submission to be postponed to allow a further, more leisurely and sympathetic hearing.
By the time this letter is published I’m guessing the DCS will be in Bristol queueing for the first available Government Inspector to assess it, including all those comments the Six are concerned about.
The GI will also come to Colne to formally ask questions. Ironically, the delay requested by the Six would put our precious green fields at even higher risk, in spite of their good intentions. There is only one paramount priority, which is to have a CS approved.
The Coalition’s 52-page slimline planning legislation came into force in March, overriding what had gone before. The further delay would almost certainly be taken by a GI as a serious failure by Pendle Council to comply and make it even easier for an opportunist developer to ride roughshod over our preferences.
The GI will not be concerned with full details of all sites. She/he will only want to be satisfied there are, overall, enough hectares within Pendle to meet the economic plan.
Pendle planning development will do specific sites and have a formal consultation as soon as possible.
Only one site is already allocated and that is at Trough Laithe Farm, Barrowford, for about 440 houses.
I agree with the Six that the DCS is a complex document not easy for many of us to comment on. This complexity derives not from a determination of planning authorities to make it difficult for us to respond to but rather from planning law and formulae which inevitably constrain our planning developers in their presentation.
This last formal consultation was to confirm the legal “soundness” of the document, something which most of us are simply not qualified to do, yet formal consultation was obligatory under the rules.
The Six accuse Planning Development of significant failure in communicating to the public. In this newspaper on November 28th, Neil Watson, the manager responsible for Pendle planning, spelt out what had been done and how widely and, I would dare to suggest, it was excellent.
Sheila Smith gets a copy of the national award-winning “Framework” telling us all where we are up to and there have been 29 of them! Anybody can have a hard or electronic copy and you only need to ask once.
The clue to what has gone wrong is in the Six’s latest letter. Lots of us admit we do not even read the Leader-Times newspapers! Deputy News Editor Andrew Spencer has consistently kept us informed in this sphere for years and what to do if we need more guidance. The failure in the communication is with our co-citizens not making the effort to pick up these important messages.
Expensive leafleting every household is not the answer. It doesn’t work. I am a member of Pendle Recycling Focus Group. The annual bin timetable tells us exactly what goes or does not go in which bin and how to ask if you don’t understand. I’ve seen the mess at the Lancashire recycling plant near Preston, proving too many people repeatedly do not read the simple instructions. It will cost us all in council tax soon if we don’t heed the guidance. We must take more responsibility as a community.
Finally the Six, Edward Lee, most of the rest of us and Government ministers say build on brownfield sites first. Such sites invariably need remedial work which developers are unwilling to do. Legislation needs to be far more imaginative than it is now to make it happen.