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Letter - Planning Committee Concerns

March 19, 2021 1:18 PM

Liberal Democrat campaigner and candidate for Bromsgrove West, Joanna McKenna, has written to various parties regarding concerns that occured at a Planning Committee meeting at Bromsgrove District Council this week. The text of her letter can be read below:

Dear Editor,

I write to voice my concerns about the Bromsgrove District Council Meeting that I viewed on YouTube on Tuesday 16th March.

There are two very worrying points.

Firstly, I am concerned that due process during the course of this application has not been followed and would ask whether that would invalidate the meeting.

It would appear that the deadline for a committee decision on this application for up to 1300 homes at Perryfields Road was 8th December 2020; the fact that this has been allowed to pass without such a meeting would appear to demonstrate gross incompetence at best. This meant that the application had already been sent by the applicant to the Inspectorate on the grounds of non-determination before the planning committee meeting, thus taking the decision away from our democratically elected BDC planning committee members. The committee's decision to 'give the green light' to the application was indicative only.

I understand that Cllr Richard Deeming, as the planning committee chairman, had the responsibility for ensuring the meeting was called prior to the 8th of December and that this would have led to a meaningful debate and vote on the matter with a chance for the residents of Perryfields and Bromsgrove to be heard.

Furthermore, the date by which the planning department's statement of case for this application has to be with the Inspectorate is the 19th March - a mere 3 days after the planning meeting arranged by Bromsgrove District Council. With such a short time, it would appear that this was deliberately making it difficult to include a full account of the councillors' views in the statement. Hopefully the inspector was able to watch the debate via YouTube.

Due to such failings at Bromsgrove District Council planning department, we are now in the situation where the people of Bromsgrove have not had a voice: they have been silenced. The application will now be determined by an inspector at inquiry rather than submissions. Who will be able to speak? How will our residents' voices be heard?

One may mistake this for incompetence had there not been a similar episode in the recent history of applications for developments. Bromsgrove District Council allowed a similar fate to befall another controversial application, the previous 505 homes application for Whitford Road. Although in this case the committee meeting was lengthy and there were many objections, the briefing that was sent to the inspector was not representative of councillors' nor residents' opinions, concentrating on one minor issue regarding the proposed Rock Hill roundabout. Unsurprisingly it failed and permission was granted by the inspector to up to 505 homes.

I am exceptionally concerned that the Perryfields application has been handled in a negligent way. The council has silenced its residents, the very people it should be trying to support and listen to.

The Perryfields application, like the Whitford application, is pretty well 100% likely to be granted but not by the BDC planning committee; by failing to follow due process, and negligent behavisour allowing key dates to be missed, the matter is now with the Inspector so they can be blamed for an unpopular decision, not the BDC planners. I believe they could not have deferred it for amendment since it was already with the Inspectorate.

I would also like to complain about the way Cllr King was treated. I accept that giving a thumbs up to part of Cllr Mallett's excellent speech about the distributor road could be viewed as contentious. However, I witnessed many Conservative councillors nodding and shaking their heads throughout the meeting at various points. Those that did so but supported the proposal were not disciplined in any way nor removed from the meeting. The fact that Cllr King was removed demonstrates gross inequity which needs to be addressed.

I and Perryfields residents are exceptionally disappointed with the way that Bromsgrove District Council has neglected its duty to its residents.

Joanna McKenna,

Liberal Democrat Candidate for Bromsgrove West