Wednesday, January 21, 2009

30 Angry People.

There were 30 of them in all, and they were very angry - very angry indeed. Tonight, I'd gone along to a meeting of architects, builders, agents and others involved in 'development', to hear their concerns about the planning process in Montgomeryshire. Because it looked as if the meeting might be a bit awkward to handle, I was asked to chair it - because I've done this sort of thing before. They asked me to write to the Chief Executive of Powys County Council outlining their concerns. I'm using words which extend my evening's attempts to calmify the general tone of tonight's meeting.

Firstly there is concern about the lack of local democracy in the planning process. Almost all decision making has been handed over from councillors to officials, and several opinions were that the whole approach has become unacceptably dictatorial. One councillor told me tonight that a request for a meeting with a planning official, with a developer, had elicited a blunt refusal informing him that it was not the department's job to advise developers, but to decide their applications for planning permission. How's that for public relations?

Secondly, there is concern that there is no mechanism for reviewing policy, even if a policy is clearly failing. Recently I asked about the process (on behalf of a local landowner) of seeking the inclusion of a plot of land in a development zone, and was told it would be well over a year before this could even be considered. There was a lot about this sort of frustration.

And thirdly, there is concern about the competence of the Department to deliver a planning service. This is strong stuff. Feelings are running high. The meeting asked me to write to the Chief Executive of the Council, and go public. After some discussion, we agreed that I copy the letter to every councillor in Montgomeryshire (in a metaphorical brown envelope). The meeting also wanted me to raise the failure of the Powys Planning Department with the National Assembly for Wales. I advised that it was too early for the 'nuclear option'. But I will be meeting Ieuan Wyn Jones on Friday morning , and I promised that I would mention the issue in an informal preliminary way - if I have the opportunity. It is deeply frustrating that so many jobs and enterprise is lying and dying in planning officers intrays. This is what instigated the anger at tonight's meeting. I wonder how widespread such anger is across Wales.


Anonymous said...

I do to have concerns with the undemocratic nature of Powys Planning and that the bureaucrats have taken over, but my concern is probably opposite to your angry 30. I fear that too much is now being permitted for development. I am pleased that extensions to development zones are 'not' being considered. If developers got their way, we'd be a suburb of Telford.

desperate dan said...

If you think that planning in Powys is hopeless then you know nothing about the failures of Ceredigion's planning department. Can't say more just now - I've got a planning application to prepare - may respond later.

Anonymous said...

It's shameful that young, Welsh local people have no real support from their county council to build a family home on their own land. It's no wonder that they're all moving away to find jobs and homes elsewhere.

Glyn Davies said...

Roman - Its more failure to come to a decision at all that causes frustration, rather than refusals.

In my opinion there is a problem with the amount of land zoned for development - because so much of what has been previously zoned has been rendered undevelopable because of a redrawing of what is considered to be at risk of flooding. But again, the issue is a failure to have proposals considered, rather than to having them refused that is causing so much anger.

D D - Your identity has been blown. you are probably the only application under consideration, and they know who you are.

Anon - Its very difficult to differentiate between 'young, local Welsh people' and anyone else. When I was Planning Committee Chairman, Coucillors knew most people, and did make these sort of judgements. When I look back, I accept that it was too open to what we might call soft corruption of the system - but its gone so far in the direction of being a judicial process that planning permission might as well be decided by the courts.

Anonymous said...

One wonders why Powys spent £90,000 recently to bring in consultants to clear the backlog of applications when the economy has turned and the number of planning applications are at a ten year low (just look at the weekly Planning Register at Powys to see the low numbers and small scale applications now being received). If planning policy is at fault as you suggest, should these officers be used to help update and quickly bring forward a development plan that reflects the needs of Powys? Or are the 17 officers dealing with planning applications in Powys content to be dealing with a small workload(approx two applications per week each)? The much beleagured Ceredigion County Council have half the number of case officers and a 30% larger caseload. Powys'Chief Executive is completely out of touch with what's happening. Not for the first time this CE on £135k per annum plus free car plus £100k Admiralty pension has been found wanting.