We still have no guarantee that the Vearse Farm reserved matters application will go to the planning committee for approval. The application shows the decision as delegated to the case officer. Our earlier post explains how under the Dorset Council Constitution this could be allowed to happen. We continue to lobby the council on this matter.
Concerns about local democracy were raised with Mr Prosser (Dorset Council CEO) on 16 September 2021. The email sent is set out below and when a response to these concerns is received we will post it!
“Dear Mr Prosser
I am concerned that the Dorset Council Constitution allows paid Officers to over rule democratically elected Councils and Councillors and so a measure introduced for a council department’s expediency is destroying Democracy.
This is based on my recent interactions with the Council planning department and also on concerns I have received from other local people.
In respect of the planning application (Watton Lane, Bridport P/FUL/2021/01762) I requested that it should be sent to the planning committee given that it is a contentious application with a previous application for a smaller number of houses on the same site being overwhelmingly refused at committee only to be over turned by the inspector on appeal.
Mr Garrity responded by saying that although the planning chair and vice chair are consulted the final decision is taken by the nominated officer, either him or Anna Lee. It seems perverse and anti-democratic that elected councillors do not have a final say in which applications go to committee.
I was also discouraged from contacting local councillors on this matter. I wrote to planning committee members with copy to Mike Garrity (Head of Planning). In response I had an email from Mr Garrity advising:
“It is best not to email planning committee members directly as they must remain of an open mind when considering any applications that go before the committee.”.
I am very surprised by this advice as lobbying Councillors is a normal and healthy part of the planning process, which has been examined over the years, and continues to be practised throughout the UK. Councillors should not be prejudiced before a committee but they are within their rights and duties to gather opinions of constituents, and residents, and of any other representations.
I can’t help feeling that planning officials not only discourage local democracy but also want to avoid “difficult” planning applications going to committee and allowing public involvement
Would you be willing to implement an urgent review of the Dorset Council Constitution in relation to planning to ensure that local electors can feel confident that it is both democratic and fair?