Durham County Council Planning Services
Not Fit for Purpose?
Some Planning Committee members and Officers of the Durham County Council Planning Services took exception to the Local Planning Authority being called Not Fit for Purpose on Monday 14th September 2015 at County Hall. At the same hearing, officers of the Local Authority explained that the Durham City Plan was years out of date and that the policies it contained carried little or no weight; that the policies contained in the new Durham Local Plan, which has not been adopted, and was still the subject of a Judicial Review carried no weight. The County Council Legal Representative explained that the County would be faced with significant costs if it lost an appeal against refusal which was highly likely. In essence officers of the Council made it clear that they had no faith in any of their plans and that they would lose any legal challenge that the developer Hallam Land made upon refusal.
The Planning Committee heard from Cassop cum Quarrington Council that the only recent Housing Need Assessment which has not been challenged was the report produced in June 2105 by a firm of highly experienced external planning consultants – AECOM. This meant that this report was not only the most up to date but the only one which focussed solely on the Parish in which this development was planned. The report made it clear that the housing need for the Parish was 145 units over the next fifteen years. Cassop cum Quarrington Parish explained that it had a policy in its draft Neighbourhood Plan that no more than 15 units should be built in any one year on any one site unless it could be demonstrated that significant employment opportunities (excluding construction) would be created. The Parish Council explained that having met with a developer three working days prior to this hearing, they were examining a mixed development being proposed in another part of the Parish, which would create thousands of long-term jobs for the county. They have additionally identified other sites in the Parish which would fulfil its five year housing needs.
With the sort of twisted logic that only a Not Fit for Purpose Local Planning Authority can come up with officers argued that as their plans which were either out of date or not adopted, that the planning committee should approve the application.
With the sort of twisted logic that only a Not Fit for Purpose Local Planning Authority can come up with officers ignored Cassop cum Quarringtonʼs Housing Need Assessment Report which was up to date; ignored the request for refusal from the Parish Council; ignored the request for refusal from three local county councillors Williams, Blakey, and Plews; ignored the request for refusal from Coxhoe Parish Council; ignored the request for refusal from Bowburn and Parkhill Community Partnership; ignored the request for refusal from Parkhill Neighbours Community Association; ignored the advice from the county council’s own Design & Conservation department; ignored the advice from the county council’s own Sustainability officer; ignored the request for refusal from numerous local objectors; ignored the fact that not one single other person, organisation or community group recommended approval; and focussed on the fact that the development in Parkhill would create a maximum of possibly ten short-term construction jobs.
With the sort of twisted logic that only a Not Fit for Purpose Local Planning Authority can come up with, Councillor Mike Dixon from Newton Aycliffe then proposed that the Planning Committee approve the application as the benefits outweighed the likely adverse impact. Presumably the major benefit is that the Local Authority will not face a legal challenge from the developer, who promised to withdraw their appeal if permission was approved – which they have not. Other benefits were not advised.
With the sort of twisted logic that only a Not Fit for Purpose Local Planning Authority can come up with, six others voted for approval.
Seemingly the animals are now in charge of the zoo.
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DCC PLANNING FIT FOR PURPOSE?
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