I’m afraid the letter from Ralph Nuttall about councillors and planning in last week’s paper was wrong on all three counts.
First, the meeting between Colne councillors and Persimmon Homes about their planning application for over 200 houses at Knotts Drive was indeed private, but it was not secret. I personally told the Get Knotted residents’ group it was taking place. I also told them what had been discussed and the questions we asked Persimmon to answer. (No replies yet, as I write).
There always has to be a lot of discussion and negotiation about large planning applications, between the applicants and planning officials, before they are submitted, and often also between the submission and the council committee meeting that is asked to make a decision. It is my view that it is often a good idea for councillors themselves to take part in such discussions, with council planning staff present, and not just to leave it to the staff themselves.
Otherwise we are left with wanting to ask a lot of detailed and important questions when we are under pressure of time at the decision meeting, and it is too late to get considered responses. So this is what happened this time. I suggested the meeting with Persimmon should take place precisely because as councillors we work hard to represent local people and put forward their views (which in this case I have made no secret that I largely share them).
Second, Mr Nuttall refers to a planning approval for a “café and wine bar” in Albert Road. I’m afraid this was based on a false report and headline in the previous week’s Colne Times. The application that was approved was for a café only. No approval was given for a wine bar and it was made clear at the meeting that if the café is used as a wine bar without permission the council will take action to stop it.
I should add that my colleague Coun. Dorothy Lord had been to a meeting with residents only the evening before, and with colleagues successfully moved amendments which we hope will prevent the café causing a nuisance to them.
Finally, the planning application for eight houses in Collingwood Street will not be decided by council officials under delegated powers. It will come to the Colne and District Committee – as I confirmed with council staff soon after it was announced.
Planning rules laid down from on high mean we cannot always do exactly as residents and we would like. But councillors on Pendle’s Colne and District Committee do not make planning decisions “in secret” and we do not hide from the people we represent. In fact we make every effort to encourage people to come to meetings and tell us what they think. And we listen. And we explain why we make particular decisions. I don’t think any council in the country makes planning decisions in a more open and honest way than we do.
COUN. TONY GREAVES