Bexhill’s planning fiasco is a mockery of democracy

Your letters to the newspaper
Your letters to the newspaper

Stella Stone, Spindlewood Drive, Bexhill

After reading the front-page story of last week’s Bexhill Observer and on speaking to several people who attended the RDC Planning Committee meeting of February 14, it appears that there has been yet another mockery of democracy.

The planning meeting had been called to consider the planning application for the building of 160 homes in a field off Spindlewood Drive, Little Common. Despite the fact that the overwhelming vote by the Planning Committee was to refuse the planning officers’ recommendation of acceptance (a majority decision of nine to five and a second vote with the same outcome), the Planning Committee chairman, Brian Kentfield, decided that the case for refusing the application on planning grounds was unsound. Thus, overruling the majority wishes of local people and indeed of the Planning Committee itself.

As a result, the application was deferred to a hastily arranged and unscheduled full council meeting to be held on March 4.

Over 1,500 local resident objections have been raised to this planning application on the grounds of potential damage to the Pevensey Levels caused by water borne contamination, even more congestion on our local roads including the A259, as well as lack of places in local schools and adequate GP appointments.

An Extraordinary Full Council Meeting will now take place on March 4 to further consider this application.

This committee will consist of all 38 councillors, the majority of whom have very little or no expertise in planning issues. According to Mr Maynard, leader of the council, these (untrained) committee members will need to be trained in planning regulation points before the meeting on March 4.

This is an interesting concept considering that they will have just 10 working days to understand the finer aspects of planning issues.

It would thus appear that decisions will be taken by many uninformed committee members who have very little understanding of planning regulations and complex legally based planning issues. This will affect the majority of people in Little Common and surrounding areas for the remainder of their lives.

During the debate on this application, it became increasingly clear that the major issue and cause of much confusion for the Planning Committee members themselves, related to the need for an Appropriate Assessment (AA).

This is a legal document ensuring that the Pevensey Levels can never be damaged by nearby residential development.

At issue was whether a partial AA was sufficient to permit outline planning permission or whether a full and detailed AA was needed even for outline permission. Many Planning Committee members felt that the latter was needed.

The planning officers, however, contested this and felt that a partial AA was sufficient provided stringent conditions were adhered to for a subsequent AA at a later stage and before final planning permission could be granted.

The Planning Committee members were not convinced however and quite rightly so.

There is a great deal of uncertainty, even nationally, as to whether a full or partial AA is required, including Government agencies such as Natural England and the Environment Agency.

This then raises the question as to why RDC isn’t deferring any decision on this planning application until full clarity on the legal requirements for an AA has been established under UK and International law.

Many other councils are already doing so. Why not Rother?

The manner in which this application is being handled smacks of the D4B fiasco when the majority wishes of the local people were totally ignored by RDC.

Roll on the local elections in May and hopefully local people will use their vote in order to regain a voice for Bexhill residents.