Monday, September 08, 2008

A Free Lunch in Llandrindod.

Don't tell me that blogs are a waste of time. It gets me into all sorts of interesting places. Today it was the Annual Conference of the Society of Local Council Clerks in the Metropole at Llandrindod Wells. I was on immediately pre lunch, which is always a good slot - as long as things are not running late. They weren't today. My invite came courtesy of Jim Griffiths, who acts as Clerk to the Society as well as Aberystwyth Town Council. He also reads this blog. The photo is of me between two serious big wigs in the local council world.

Must admit I blanched a bit when I turned up. For some reason I'd been expecting a fairly informal meeting of around 30/40. I arrived to find 105 delegates in a highly professional setting. Huge display boards, various presentation equipment and what looked like a horribly well informed audience. I was billed as President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, but Jim had told me I could talk about whatever I wanted - so I did just that. It must be the thespian in me, because I really enjoy this sort of thing. And I have the added benefit that I enjoy it more when I just talk out of my head with no preparation beyond a basic speech structure of 3/4 reference points in my mind.

I stayed on to hear Alan Southerby, who emerged from the Planning Department of Powys County Council to tell the representatives of Welsh Town and Community Councils how they could 'make their views count'. If you listen carefully, you may be able to hear me snort derisively as I type out these words. It would probably have been the same irrespective of which planner's bunker, the speaker had emerged from. The line that caught my attention was that the fact that objection to a proposal from every single resident in a community has absolutely no relevance when a planning application is being considered. It makes not one jot of difference. I wanted to shout out "Why the b***** h*** not", but retained control. Left thinking to myself 'What has happened to the idea of 'local democracy' in Wales'. The problem is that the vast majority of planning applications are now decided by 'officials'. Elected councillors have only the miniest walk-on role. It wouldn't be so bad, but during the 30 years I've been involved in public life, I've never heard so much complaint from virtually everyone involved in trying to secure permission to do something. Sorry Alan, I'm not just picking on you. Its probably the same everywhere. For some bizarre reason in Britain we've reached a position where only the 'trained elite' are deemed competent to take decisions. Its even worse in the European Union. And then I read Janet Daley when I stopped for a coffee in Jay's in Newtown on the way home.

Good day though. Thanks for the invite Jim.


penlan said...

Council officers now have to be mindful of adverse costs orders with successful planning appeals.However,this does beg the question as to whether the coucillors now have much discretion in their decision making to start with when faced with an officer's report which is not to their liking.

I have to say that a planning officer's job is far from easy these days.No wonder councils in Wales have difficulty in recruiting and then retaining them.

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as a "Free Lunch" and I must say that Glyn worked well for his reward!
Many people came up to me and stated that Glyn spoke very well and gave a "refreshing" view on his chosen topics and were suprised to be so tuned in to what he was saying.
Nice one Glyn! Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

I was there!
30 minutes and not a note in sight.
Most enjoyable.

That's the question ... said...

An aside, but this is pretty important for those who are following the McCain-Palin phenomenon:

Bloomberg reports that in Chicago (Obama’s home town), “This week, a fundraiser in Chicago, Obama's hometown, yielded $5 million.” Nothing unusual about that, accept it was a Republican fundraiser. The American public is growing sick and tired of Obama’s message - actually becoming difficult to pin down since it is now self-evident that Obama’s U-turns, retractions, and shifts in policy every couple of weeks, then weekly, now daily – tomorrow hourly?

Obama’s himself gives credence to the line “Another day, Another Obama”. Flip-flopper is how Americans see it in increasing numbers. Americans hate leaders who flip-flop, and Obama is a major flip-flopper – add wings and he would take off without even a sip of Red Bull.

Who am I? Just your average Ignorant Stupid American, sort of, maybe ... you decide!

Anonymous said...

"that objection to a proposal from every single resident in a community has absolutely no relevance when a planning application is being considered. It makes not one jot of difference."
likewise a petition in favour of a planning application makes not a jot of differnce.
Some planning officers are also ill equiped for the job these days to.
In Conwy county they start off on a salary of not much more than a bum basic councillor, they then attend day release to college to qualify for the postion of planning officer.
We have a district plan here that has not been updated since 1982!!
It is a bllody mess to say the least.

Glyn Davies said...

Penlan - The problem is that Government has attempted to introduce absolute consistancy into the planning system, killing off the elected member role. What's happened is that there are such a huge number of 'policies' and 'guidelines' in place that there is always some reason to vote a proposal down. Unless there is a change of approach I can see some planning departments collapsing under the weight of their own regulations.

Thank you Jim and anonymous has not commented at my request.

thats the question - You would not think it from reading the British media. The reprting of the Prsidential contest has been disgracefully one-sided. Because I naturally contrary, it causes me to root for McCain.

anon 2 - Actually, I have some sympathy for planners. They are being asked to suspend commom sense and personal judgement in carying out their jobs. In the current environment, the easy course in just to refuse. They can always find a reason. One agent told me that he has four million's worth of work waiting for approval, while builders and suppliers are laying off staff. Its madness. There is going to be a hell of a row where I live, and it seems that its the same in other areas as well.