The right and responsibilities of Free Speech has been very much in the forefront of all people’s minds in recent weeks.
With this principle in mind I attended the Planning Application submitted by Barratt Homes to build on land situated in Pebsham.
The application being heard by Rother Planning Committee on 15. January 2015.
The meeting was well attended by members of the public who were all informed by written notice placed on seating that no member of the public was permitted to speak during the hearing of applications clearly Rother do not follow best practice in line with other local councils whereby a number of objectors can appoint a spokesperson (often a planning expert) to speak for a defined number of minutes at some stage of the hearing.
In addition to this restriction, members of the public were invited to read a copious document of 88 pages outlining planning committee procedures policies and context of all applications to be considered by the committee.
I submit reading, understanding a highly technical document and following the committee at the same time is a wondrous feat indeed!
The committee commenced with commendable submissions by both the councillor for Pebsham Ward and the councillor for St.Michaels Ward to at least defer the application on grounds of traffic access amongst other reasons.
Councillor Clarke even produced recent photographs of flooding in the area covered by the application.
Bearing in mind all members of the committee had previously carried out a bus tour of the area in Pebsham affected I express the utmost surprise how little knowledge some members had of the area and the application.
I can only submit this may be because they do not reside in Bexhill?
The committee concluded in under one hour with little or no summary from the chairman making a decision that will affect adversely the lives of many Pebsham residents for many years in the future.
Rother Council gained under section 106 of planning laws/regulations a payment of £14,000 per unit times 108 to be spent on Pebsham. I I came away from the chamber feeling the residents of Rother in general and the people of Pebsham in particular had been poorly served by such a risible committee and just maybe Bexhill would have much to gain from a town council where members live and work, and in the future consider such applications after listening to the voice of the people.
NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED
In response to the criticism of not being able to speak at the meeting a Rother District Council spokesman said: “Local ward councillors can address the planning committee to summarise local views on any application, as they did in this case.
“Representations can also be made to the committee in writing up until the morning of the meeting with late submissions being circulated to all members before debate takes place on the planning application.
“This has been the approach successfully adopted by the council for many years and has allowed for views to be presented while allowing for the smooth running of the meeting, in which the planning committee is able to make considered planning decisions.”