Fringe Box



Letter: I am Sorry to See Councillor Resign But Don’t Recognise His Assessment

Published on: 5 Mar, 2023
Updated on: 5 Mar, 2023

Cllr David Bilbe Speaking at a Planning Committee Meeting in February.

From: Tom Hunt

lead councillor at GBC for Planning Development and a Lib Dem borough councillor for Friary & St Nicolas

I am disappointed that David Bilbe [Con, Normandy] has resigned from the Planning Committee at the borough council.  I have always enjoyed his contribution to debates.

The challenges with GBC’s planning department are well known.  However, the tide has turned, and performance is improving.  In the three months to December 2022, 72 per cent of non-major applications were determined within the statutory eight-week period.  This is above the DLUHC (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) target of 70 per cent, and whilst there is still room for improvement, this is a much better level of performance than a year ago.

GBC still has a backlog of applications, but we are working through it, and the number of applications in the backlog is growing smaller.

I simply don’t recognise David’s assessment of planning enforcement.  He specifically mentions Wanborough Fields.

This site has proved difficult for enforcement action, because of a lack of clarity around ownership of the plots – many owners have not updated the Land Registry with the details of their ownership.

As a lawyer, Cllr Bilbe will be well aware that enforcement action cannot take place in the absence of a party to act against. He may be interested to note, however, that GBC is prosecuting one plot owner, with the court date set for next Tuesday, March 7.

As for undemocratic changes to the planning process, I find it interesting that David voted in favour of these changes at the special meeting of the Planning Committee on February 7.  In order for something to be undemocratic, pre-existing rights must be removed.  None of the proposed changes remove any rights of anyone, so I can only imagine that David is grandstanding.  Is there an election coming up?

I wish David well in his retirement.

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