The life of a planning officer is never particularly easy round here, particularly when they have their well researched recommendations overturned by the elected members of the Planning Committee who, by doing so, call into question their own motives. Last night’s Planning Committee meeting was a case in point.
The application under consideration (for the fourth time) was that submitted by one of the Bedhampton Councillors in respect of his own property. This time, following the direction forcefully set in a deputation by County Councillor Liz Fairhurst, the newly-formed and partly-baked Planning Committee deliberately ignored the recommendation of the Planning Officers and forced the application through, leaving the Planning Officers to do the hard work of clearing up the mess created.
To appreciate the background to this application and to understand the concerns raised by this Planning Committee decision, please read our earlier post on the planning history for Aura House.
The edited extract from the meeting, viewable below, provides a brief summary of the event and is worth sticking with if only for the last few minutes which clearly demonstrate the quality of the ‘debate’. In order of appearance, the players are: Cllr. Fairhurst, Cllr. Branson, HBC Development Manager, Steve Weaver (with Case Officer, David Eaves), Cllr. Hughes, Cllr. Crellin, Cllr. Patrick and Cllr. Patel. The meeting was chaired by Cllr. Crellin. (Cllrs. Guest and Keast now conveniently absent, leaving the hapless Cllr. Hughes to take on their usual role.)
David Eaves and Steve Weaver, the two planning officers present, had burned a considerable number of hours considering the facts and producing a detailed, forty page report recommending refusal of the latest iteration of this application. The Havant Civic Society Planning Representative, together with the rest of the HCS Committee and other members of the Havant Borough Residents’ Alliance had all considered the Planning Officer’s recommendation to be in the best interests of those on the Council’s housing list.
By overturning this recommendation without any semblance of intelligent debate, the five elected members present demonstrated their complete lack of commitment to the quality of entry-level housing, ‘levelling down’ the opportunities for the two thousand people on the Council’s list.
It’s clear from the Officers’ report and the public objections raised that those on the housing list deserve a higher quality of accommodation. It’s also true that the Planning Officers deserve a higher standard of engagement from the elected political representatives and, quite frankly, so do the residents.