Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Marathon

This afternoon's planning meeting set a record for length. I was at the meeting room in the Library just after 1 because I knew there would be update reports to read before the meeting. There were so many, and some were so involved, that it was almost 1.30 before I'd finished studying them. Then the meeting started. Lots of members of the public were there. This is one of the things I like about planning committee - after years of campaigning by Liberal Democrats on the council, much of it long before I was elected, the public have the right to speak on applications. A planning officer presents a report summarising the relevant policies and material planning considerations then the applicant and public have the right to speak. It makes some meetings last a long time but at the end of it at least we have heard all sides of the argument. The chairman is very good at ensuring that fairness prevails, even if he's a bit brusque about it sometimes.
This afternoon we had a very difficult one to start with. A man who trains racing greyhounds has converted a barn into kennels, laid a road, put down concrete bases for pens and made a number of other changes to a piece of land on Aislaby road, outside the village. He says he didn't know that he needed planning permission to do these things but as he'd already applied for and been refused permission to do something similar elsewhere in the Borough a few years ago that seemed unlikely. Our policies are very clear about development in the countryside and this didn't fit the bill. Sadly, he's wasted a load of money on doing all this work when he should have waited to get permission first. A lesson for us all there. I hope he's learned it now.
There were 11 applications on the agenda, but only 3 in our ward - the application to put 5 houses at the rear of Copsewood went through. I think most people would agree that 5 would be better than the 7 he currently has permission for. The application to put a warehouse on the unallocated triangle of land near Elementis Chromium also went through, after much discussion of why it should be allowed and what the traffic situation would be. As I said in the committee meeting I'm much more worried about the traffic for the pending application on the site nearby. That one will generate much more than a removals firm could ever dream of.
By the time we'd dealt with a tricky one in Thornaby for student flats, a difficult one in Yarm for a golf course and several other lengthy ones we were beginning to wonder if we should have taken our tea with us! At 5.20 the meeting finally ended. I'm afraid that I was too shattered to do much more than finish off our Focus leaflet tonight. Worth the effort though - individual residents had been given the chance to say their piece and to see that "the council" listened to them. Even when we didn't agree with them we could still make little changes that would give them slightly more peace of mind. Tiring, but one of our better meetings.

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