Planning – don’t you just despair?
There’s something about planning committee that just grates with me. Maybe it’s the
faux inclusivity and bonhommie, maybe it’s the fake veneer of non-political objectivity. Every cell of the body of every councillor on every planning committee is by definition ‘political’. It’s why we have councillors on the committee; to provide that local say. But at the same time, they’re required to deny the local and maintain the illusion of rigorous quasi judicial impartiality.
Having spent a year on planning myself, I know that the councillors for the vast majority of cases do genuinely apply an objectivity to the decision making. Sometimes though issues arise where it’s impossible to prise out of the political. Voters would not understand the point of a local councillor who spoke against the interests of those voters in favour of the greater good.
Sometimes you wonder whether the faux objectivity is worth the effort. Trafford’s Conservative members of the planning committee got themselves tied up in so many knots over the Tesco/Cricket Club development that it seems they’ve subjected to Trafford to years of legal challenge. In first declaring one by one that they were against the Tesco development due to its size, but 30 mins later voting for it when asked to do so by the legal officer, it left the doors wide open to challenge. It’s easy to understand the frustration of Lancashire Cricket Fans (Facebook) but the real culprits are Trafford’s Tories. Had they been transparently objective (as they should have been) throughout the decision making, and been a little less pliable to LCCC’s every whim (rejecting the White City alternative early without a thorough appraisal), the ‘verdict’ would have been far more robust and resistant to challenge. As it was, we ended up with a planning meeting that was nothing short of farcical. In short, Trafford’s Tories dropped their planning committee members right in it and left them with the most impossible of tasks.
Thursday’s planning meeting was another frustrating affair although for an entirely different reason. The planning committee devoted more time to an advertising hoarding in Urmston upon which there was a complete consensus against granting consent than it did to a major 700 bed hotel near to Old Trafford Stadium that officers were recommending should be allowed to operate except on match days! This is a development of huge strategic importance. but officers have been allowed to impose the most bureaucratic strictures on its operation. International fans will have to transfer to a different hotel on the day of the match and come back by tram or taxi for fear of creating congestion in the car parks. I am one of the two most pro-cycling councillors in Trafford (I bow only to Cllr Chilton) but there is no way that this hotel requires parking for 97 bicycles as officers were insisting. It’s absolute madness. Where was the discussion in ensuring local employment? A colleague suggested the discussion was getting too in-depth and that was that (I wish he’d similarly brought discussion on the advertising hoarding to an end on the basis they were all in agreement). I absolutely want the hotel development to proceed and I want it to be a success. We need growth, we need jobs. We should not be letting officers impose ludicrous and unworkable conditions at the behest of no one but guidance. It is not enough to say the developers can come back and get things changed. With such an important project, it should be about working with them to make it happen rather than imposing unneccessary obstacles.
With that I am perhaps more amenable to the pilot scheme to allow Trafford Park businesses to set their own planning guidance announced yesterday than I should be. We shall see. Planning can certainly be improved in Trafford.
From next week we’ll be able to put kitchen slops in the green bin. More details are here.
So what is the position if you live in a flat? I’m afraid this has been announced without prior discussion. We don’t know the position on people in flats, we don’t know whether retaillers have been forewarned to stock up on kitchen caddies or compostible bags. We’re racing to catch up with this announcement
Meanwhile the council is packing its excess and obsolescent belongings into a skip and is clearing out of the town hall to the Quays. Expect massive confusion With the best will in the world I think it’s safe to assume things will be lost.
Apology for this week’s update being a succession of gripes but I think that just about sums it up