CIVIC SOCIETY NEWS
CIVIC SOCIETY NEWS
Kirklees Council has given an assurance to Huddersfield Civic Society that it has 'no plans to weaken or abolish any planning committees'.
The pledge by council leader Cllr Shabir Pandor was made in response to concerns expressed in a letter from society president, Bernard Ainsworth.
Cllr Pandor writes: 'Public input into decision making is an essential element of our democracy. Our focus as an administration is on improving engagement with local people and working with them on the issues that affect them. Localised decision making on planning issues is clearly part of that process.'
This is the text of Bernard's letter: 'On behalf of Huddersfield Civic Society we read, with some alarm, the Examiner report (July14) ‘Kirklees planning shake-up could result in less chance to fight developments’ following a meeting of the Council’s Cabinet.
'It is worrying that senior figures have voiced concerns about the balance of the democratic process in dealing with developers and developments! It appears some Cabinet members feel that public input is too high and shouldn’t take up so much time, effort and weighting!
'In 2019 the largest ever canvassing of public trust in large scale development in the UK found that trust in the planning system is almost non-existent. When it comes to planning for large scale development, just 2 per cent of the public trust developers and only 7 per cent trust local authorities.
'The report said, ‘When asked how to increase trust, the most popular response was holding developers and councils to account for what they promised; followed by more opportunity for local people to influence the outcome of development and more transparency from private developers.'
'We should like to know what improvements the Council aims to achieve in reducing the number of planning meetings and what assurances can be given against reduction in public involvement and participation.
'We also ask that the Council considers the adoption of Place Alliance’s housing audit criteria to assess housing planning applications as a means of improving local people’s lives and contributing to Kirklees’ climate emergency’ targets.
'The Cabinet’s concerns are doubly worrying given the Prime Minister's recent call to 'build, build, build' and the government’s announcement of the 'most radical reforms' to the planning system since 1945.
'Let us hope local democracy can be strengthened , not curtailed, and our communities can feel confident that their voice will be heard.
Bernard Ainsworth OBE FRSA
President, Huddersfield Civic Society
Victoria Tower, Castle Hill picture by Vinny Tyrell
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