Now I know a lot of people, both of Canvey Island and the mainland, take very little interest in the day to day affairs of castle point council.
But when they do, they like to think that their issues and points of view are given some respect and consideration.
Of late there has been a decision made to change the council’s Planning Procedure. This has involved the authority’s control of the Planning website.
Officers have decided to not publish comments or notice of petition of objection, or general comment in the list of documents.
We believe this will have a discouraging effect upon residents who are affected by local development, whether housing or business.
So now, only the developers paperwork and drawings and the agency consultees, such as Environment Agency and highways etc, are the only comments considered worthy of making public.
We believe that castle point borough council have a duty to embrace localism, and to actively display openness and transparency through their work.
We thought this important to challenge, as this will affect every resident at some time or another.
We wrote to the castle point borough council chief executive, the Leaders of both political parties and the Development Committee Chairman;
Dear Development Committee Chairman,
In your capacity as Development Committee Chairman.
We have noted that it appears that a decision has been taken to not publish, comments and objections raised by the community on planning proposals, on the cpbc website planning portal.
This is concerning, as residents may feel that no interest, or concern, is being indicated over a particular Planning Application. This in turn may well deter objection being raised or general comments being entered, through self-doubt or embarrassment that points of concern may be irrelevant.
This appears to amount to cpbc seeking to discourage community engagement with residents in local planning matters and of not acting transparently.
Generally the time to comment on planning proposals is early on in the planning process. Comments posted on the cpbc planning portal, offer committee members adequate time to view, at their own convenience, relevant community points raised, and to judge the level of public concern and feeling, so as to prepare themselves if any of the residents points were of enough weight to be considered important when it came to decision making.
Currently it appears that residents comments are severely edited and condensed into a clinical form and presented via Agenda paperwork in a 3rd hand fashion. Worse still officers, whilst we acknowledge that they should address issues raised, indicate their opinion directly following in the agenda paperwork, almost discouraging members from giving issues raised by residents any weight.
In fairness we have copied in below the very latest proposal brought before the committee.
Disregarding the merits of the proposal, the community comments are condensed into the following text. No indication of the strength of opinion, nor numbers commenting.
We believe the practise of withholding community comments from the website, whilst no doubt legally permissible, is a form of censorship, fundamentally in conflict with localism, and as such a matter that should be discouraged and urgently be reconsidered by council members.
Would you please consider this through the cpbc official complaints procedure.
Representatives of; Friends of Bowers Road, Jotmans Farm group, Canvey Green Belt Campaign.
Example of Current cpbc Practise:
Agenda paperwork extract
Neighbour notification and site notices – letters of objection and a petition have been received covering the following points:
o Overlooking of nearby properties
o Parking at the rear of adjoining gardens
o Additional on-street parking
o Restricted width of access, unsuitable for large vehicles
o Loss of parking for adjacent commercial unit
o Additional traffic
o Rise in crime/antisocial behaviour
o Smells or nuisance from vermin from bin store especially as bins are emptied fortnightly
o Insufficient capacity in the service road due to the need for vehicles to service commercial premises on London Road o Is there a business case for the development?
o Does the proposal represent best value for the council?
o Possible closure of access while services are laid o There may be more suitable sites for the development
Comments on Consultation Responses
o Concern over crime and antisocial behaviour are based on unfounded assumptions about the behaviour of the future occupants of the building.
o The applicant has been questioned about the loss of a parking space for 122 London Road. Their response is: “To our knowledge there is no loss of parking. We understand there is a garage used by 122 London Road and the development will not inhibit access to that garage. If the owner was previously parking on council owned land outside that garage then he or she was doing so without permission from the council.”
o The conditions suggested by the highway authority will be incorporated into any grant of planning permission where reasonable and necessary o Any other planning matters are dealt with in the evaluation of the proposal
And the official response from castle point borough council read;-
Good afternoon and thank you for your email.
As prescribed in article 15 of the Development Management Procedure Order, local planning authorities are required to undertake a formal period of public consultation, prior to deciding a planning application. There is however, as you correctly stated, no legislative requirements for any comments received as part of that consultation to be available to view online.
The Castle Point website does however show the number of comments that have been received on any application so the level of public interest can be clearly identified. We are not alone in this approach, it is commonly adopted by a number of authorities, our neighbouring authority of Basildon being one such example.
We have been working in this way for some time now and we certainly have no evidence to suggest that this is in anyway deterring people from commenting. Indeed we have an application which is currently open for consultation that has received 135 comments to date, demonstrating I believe that the community remain fully engaged in the process.
Planning guidance states that officer’s reports should include the ‘substance of any objections, contain technical appraisals which clearly justify the recommendation and should have a written recommendation for the decision to be made’.
Comments received in respect of a planning application can only be considered if they are, what is commonly known as, ‘material planning considerations’. Comments which are not material cannot be considered in the determining of a planning application and any such comments will not therefore be referenced in a report by an officer nor should they be considered by members at Committee.
The information you have appended below your email is indeed an ‘extract’ from a much longer report however I should point out that it omits to make reference to the consideration of all relevant objections in more detail throughout the body of the report, which more fully explain how the objections have been considered against planning policies and guidance.
Development Control Committee can, and often do, make a decision which is different from the officer recommendation and this will often reflect a difference in the assessment of how a policy has been complied with, or different weight ascribed to relevant matters.
Thank you again for contacting us.
Diane Logue LLB (Hons)
Transformation Manager (Planning)