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Letter: Council Officer’s Report Had Only One Failure, Not 28

Published on: 17 Dec, 2020
Updated on: 18 Dec, 2020

From: Andy Morris

strategic land director, Bewley Homes

In response to: Ash Green Verdict Means GBC Planning Process Must Change to Ensure Fair Play

I would like to make a comment in respect of Sue Wyeth Price’s letter stating that fair play must be ensured by GBC planning process. Sue points to an alleged 28 errors in the officer’s report.

But this was found to have been defective on one ground only, which was the failure of the officer to point out the duty of the members to have special regard to the desirability of preserving the (listed) building, or its setting. This duty is set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (as amended)

Some of the members on the planning committee were relatively new to the role, but many have been operating in planning for years and all would have been through a very rigorous training procedure to fulfil their statutory obligations.

It is therefore a little disingenuous to paint them as completely naïve and at the mercy of the officer’s advice.

I have attended many planning committees where members have been more than adept at delving straight to the issues at the core of the consideration. In fact, this is precisely what happened at the October 2019 planning committee where Cllr [Paul] Spooner, a highly skilled operator in a planning role, rightly called for a site visit for members to see first-hand the setting of the buildings.

On this basis, the members would have been thinking very carefully about how the determination should be made and in respect of the setting of the buildings.

The issues regarding flooding and the treatment of the oak tree on the site were considered by Justice Lang to have been fairly dealt with.

I urge members to re-consider the scheme in front of them and decide if they would have made the same choice with the officer reminding them of their specific duty in regard of the listed buildings.

Bewley will be more than happy to engage with the Ash Green Residents Association, but our view is that the quashed decision must be correctly determined first.

We must remember this scheme is the result of a lengthy process of consideration for allocation in a Local Plan as a strategic development site, and a number of planning applications and discussions with Historic England to minimise the impact on the setting of the listed buildings.

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test One Response to Letter: Council Officer’s Report Had Only One Failure, Not 28

  1. David Roberts Reply

    December 18, 2020 at 1:22 pm

    Nice to see that Cllr Spooner’s political eclipse has not dimmed the admiration of a property developer.

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