Are our chosen leaders listening to voters

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I was just thinking… about local democracy.

My innocuous little plea for Roystonians on crusades brought forth a veritable plethora of purple prose about how unrepresentative our elected representatives actually are. More than prose, in fact. On occasion bile and ire were added to the mix. It made for very interesting reading indeed.

It all started, dear Reader, with a comment about the proposed new cemetery site for Royston.

Up Bridleway 13, an ancient and beautiful woodland site has been earmarked as the new location in which to deposit the husks of men and women who no longer draw breath. Apparently, there were some other sites considered but, for various reasons, none were considered more suitable than this little parcel of historic verdure.

Naturally, there were objections. The historic nature of the site, the possibility of seepage – yuk! – into the natural aquifers which feed the town’s water supply, the increase of traffic, the undesirability of relatives of the deceased having to toil up the hill to visit their loved ones, the felling of trees, the disturbance of bats and badgers, all were flagged up as very good reasons not to create a burial ground in the place. And indeed very good reasons they are. Or would be if they weren’t satisfactorily addressed.

My correspondents lambasted Royston Town Council (RTC) for acting arbitrarily and unrepresentatively in making the necessary planning application without proper consideration of the opinions of the populous. The disquiet was of such an extent that my instinct was to turn to them to give them right of reply. I put digit to key and sent a missive to the town clerk asking for the considered response to such accusations.

Could it really be that the RTC could have somehow avoided the issues that were so patently clear to others and made a decision in spite of them? Issues that may have killed the proposals stone dead – if that’s not too inappropriate a comparison.

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To date, no response has been received. All of which adds fuel to the fire of suspicion that our chosen leaders are not listening to the people who have chosen them in the first place.

Such accusations cannot, however, be leveled, before a degree of research has been undertaken. Planning application number 12/01246/1 made by RTC is in the public domain. It is an impressively long document that simply announces that it proposes to “change the use of land for cemetery with associated car parking, resurfacing of access way and ancillary works”.

So far so good. They have, at least gone public.

Did they, I wondered, make the statutory consultations? A few pages into the document came the evidence of such consultations. Of the 15 consultees, all had either no objections or had recommended acceptance of the scheme with conditions.

The report went on to detail some of the objections presented by members of the “unrepresented” public. Each of their objections was weighed and carefully considered and a response offered. They may not have been the responses that the objectors had either expected or hoped for, but they were all mature and detailed. And transparent. Nobody, having read the report could possibly object to the thoroughness of the reporting officer.

Her final recommendation was subject to 24 conditions.

It read: “The use of the land hereby permitted is acceptable in terms of planning policy and would have limited impact on local residents, local ecology and the highway network and is unlikely, given the technical report submitted and the comments of the Environment Agency to lead to any pollution of controlled waters.”

So the inevitable recommendation that permission be granted ensued. That won’t please the objectors but the biggest mistake RTC can stand accused of having made is that they haven’t pointed me or anyone else in the direction of the report. It would have been such an easy thing to do.

Two thoughts nag on. Were the other sites really so unsuitable? And perhaps I’ve missed something. Perhaps there is more to it all than just a fully detailed report. I’m sure someone will let me know if that is the case.