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Letter: The Odds Are Stacked Against GBC’s Planning Committee’s Ability to Decide

Published on: 19 Jun, 2020
Updated on: 19 Jun, 2020

The Wanborough field, as it was in 2017, in which the development was proposed.

From Liz Hogger

Lib Dem borough councillor for Effingham

In response to: Borough Councillors Are Still Masters of Guildford’s Planning Destiny

While appreciating Mr Callender’s comments, sadly the real masters of our planning destiny are the unelected Planning Inspectorate who will decide on this Wanborough application, should it go to appeal.

And above the Planning Inspectorate sits the Secretary of State, now Robert Jenrick.

Mr Jenrick was recently found by the High Court to have made an unlawful decision to allow the Westferry Printworks development in London, overturning both the local council who refused it (Tower Hamlets) and the Planning Inspector who recommended dismissal of the appeal. The developer in that case, Richard Desmond, just happened to give a £12,000 donation to the Conservatives two weeks after his planning proposal was allowed.

That planning decision was quashed by the court following judicial review, but it certainly raises questions about who is the ultimate master of planning in England

I sometimes think the odds are stacked against us on the Planning Committee in our attempts to make good planning decisions for our community.

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test 5 Responses to Letter: The Odds Are Stacked Against GBC’s Planning Committee’s Ability to Decide

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    June 19, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    All I can say to Cllr Hogger is that she and her LD colleagues supported GBC’s defence of the Judicial Review to overturn the undemocratic Local Plan for GBC. Hypocritical perhaps?

    Some of our councillors appear to have forgotten that they were elected to represent the wishes of residents, not central government, or inspectors, and have a duty to represent our views. And to fight for them.

    Maybe she should try harder.

    • George Potter Reply

      June 20, 2020 at 9:30 pm

      Perhaps the judicial review attempt mounted by Jules Cranwell would have been easier to avoid defending against if the application for judicial review had actually contained any legally valid arguments challenging the council’s decision in the first place.

      George Potter is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

  2. John Perkins Reply

    June 20, 2020 at 11:41 am

    I fully agree with Liz Hogger.

    Recent decisions by “independent” Planning Inspectors have invariably found in favour of the appellant, overturning the local ruling.

    It illustrates how, in order to obtain planning permission, it is only necessary to be determined and willing to spend a little time and money. As long as the applicant follows the guidelines and laws, if the application is rejected then the decision can be appealed.

    Appeals are considered, not on the basis of local opinion, however strongly voiced, or of local planners and councillors, regardless of their ability, or even local planning rules. They are instead matched against clauses in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which has been shown to give equal weight to community halls and nail bars – in other words, anything goes.

    The Inspector’s decision is final and the only recourse local people have is a very expensive judicial review. That will almost certainly fail because it will only consider whether the planning inspector interpreted the law incorrectly.

    There is an obvious question: how is the integrity and independence of planning inspectors guaranteed in the face of government pressure and powerful appellants who can afford lawyers?

  3. Stephen Callender Reply

    June 21, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    It would probably be a good idea if John Perkins were to use facts regarding planning inspector decisions.

    Just taking the “recent” Planning Appeal decisions (from the three most recent GBC Planning Committee meetings), the inspector allowed eight and refused 34. I don’t know how that means they have invariably found in favour of the appellant, overturning the local ruling.

    Quite the opposite by the looks of it.

    Come on Mr Perkins – check the facts.

    • John Perkins Reply

      June 22, 2020 at 3:25 pm

      Fair comment, perhaps.

      Yet it does show clearly that, in the appeals, Guildford planners were found to have been wrong in almost a fifth of cases.

      Of course, that might just be indicative of a high level of incompetence. Though it could also be construed that they base their decisions on different principles to those of planning inspectors.

      Regardless of the reason, the bald statistic does nothing to explain how inspectors can maintain their independence in the face of their employer vowing to “build, build, build”.

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