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Letter: The Planning Inspector Simply Disagreed with Councillors on the Urnfield Application

Published on: 27 Oct, 2022
Updated on: 27 Oct, 2022

From: George Potter

Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

In response to a comment made on the article: Planning Permission for School Sports Field Development Won On Appeal

“How can the committee have refused an application with so many letters of support from local people?” writes Lottie Harding.

Quite easily actually. There were just over 300 comments in support of the application, and just over 270 comments in opposition to it.

The committee decided that the harm of the floodlighting on the dark skies in the green belt outweighed the benefits of the new sport facilities. It’s also worth noting that, if I recall correctly, at the time of the application the schools had not confirmed that the lighting would only be in operation during strictly limited hours.

The planning inspector, if you take the time to read the judgement, agreed with the committee that the harm to the green belt is significant, and that this needed to be balanced against the benefits of the new facilities. Where the planning inspector disagreed with the committee was on what the final weighting of each factor should be.

A useful rule of thumb: if the planning committee have acted unreasonably, or “incompetently” as Ms Harding suggests, then the planning inspector will award costs against the council.

In this case the inspector refused the request for costs against the council, precisely because this is one of those rather un-exciting cases where the applicant acted reasonably, the planning officers acted reasonably, the planning committee acted reasonably, and the planning inspector simply disagreed with the conclusion reached by the committee.

I know that people love to try to turn everything into a black and white case of goodies versus baddies, but in real-life it is in fact possible for people, for good reasons and with the best of intentions, to look at the same facts and come to different conclusions.

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Responses to Letter: The Planning Inspector Simply Disagreed with Councillors on the Urnfield Application

  1. Simon Mason Reply

    October 27, 2022 at 7:30 pm

    I think what Cllr George Potter is trying to say is that the planning committee got it wrong but not badly wrong.

    The fact that it has probably cost all parties thousands of pounds and delayed the youngster’s enjoyment of great sporting facilities by probably a year doesn’t get a mention probably because the councillors don’t suffer this.

    I had no interest in this application but was surprised to read in The Dragon months ago that the planning committee had gone against its officer’s advice for such a virtuous cause based on light levels. Surely these levels could have been dealt with by condition.

    Poor performance from the planning committee

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