Planning the future

PUBLISHED: 13:03 17 May 2007 | UPDATED: 15:06 12 May 2010

TONIGHT the way North Herts District Council decides on the outcome of planning applications will be changed. Instead of our local councillors making decisions the whole process will be undertaken by a central planning committee. The idea is to save money

TONIGHT the way North Herts District Council decides on the outcome of planning applications will be changed.

Instead of our local councillors making decisions the whole process will be undertaken by a central planning committee.

The idea is to save money.

But it means that local councillors will not be making local decisions about local planning applications.

Their knowledge and expertise may not be part of the decision-making process.

Or so it seems.

This has all the makings of centralisation, and it could well become a burdensome task for members, especially when there are a dozen or so decisions to be taken in one evening.

But there is another side to the argument which may, in fact, be of help to our community.

In the past councillors were virtually gagged by government rules and were unable to become really involved in any campaign over a particular planning application.

It meant that views had to be kept to themselves.

In the public's eye it could appear that elected members were not supporting the community which actually gave them the opportunity to become councillors.

Now councillors will be able to play the advocacy role - and really stand up to support residents who are angered by a particular planning scheme.

They will, in some respect, be adopting the role which we have all expected of them before Whitehall and the law prevented them from playing a proper part in the process.

It will be an opportunity to use both local knowledge and expertise to attempt to influence a decision - and it will give the appearance of supporting those opposed to a plan.

That is what we expect of our local elected members and they have to grasp the opportunity to support in the right circumstances any scheme that appears to be detrimental.

At the same time, councillors on Royston Town Council's Planning committee can add more weight to their argument.

They, too, will be allowed to speak at meetings of the central planning committee, although comments will have to be condensed into a three-minute presentation.

It's all a case, really, of one hand taking away while the other gives.

We will wait to see whether such a system really does give power to the people.

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