Waverley’s planning system is seen as the “battleground for the heart and soul​ of the borough’s future.”

waverleyplanningbattle.jpg

Is ‘Your Waverley’ about to go over the top? 

Waverley Councillors – could do better! Nil Point!! Go to the back of the class! Write 100 lines…

“We will not argue with planning officers recommendations – we will do as we are told and in future we will put up our hands or shut up!!”

That was the verdict of ‘experts’  brought in to revolutionise the way ‘Your Waverley’ conducts its planning functions in the future.

The report, which the WW found in a council wastepaper bin, probably because the recipient judged that’s where it belonged… soon had company! Our inbox was full of copies from councillors, some of whom were incandescent with rage at some of the proposals to smarten up ‘Your Waverley’s’ planning act.

That it needs smartening up – we agree! But ditching the ballot box – putting even more power in the hands of planning officers – giving an even bigger stick for Betty Boot aka Liz the Biz to beat us with?

NO BLOODY WAY – JOSE!

You can read the complete document below – and interesting reading it most certainly makes.

There are numerous quotes and comments highlighting the divisions between the council’s planning officers -v- councillors -v- public interest groups –v- developers -v- us the voting fodder!

Suffice to say – the so-called ‘Peer Review” (experts) want to do away with US, the moaning public and clear the path for developers. WHY? To do the Government’s bidding.

More important still, they really want to do away with councillors FULL STOP. Most certainly all the area planning committee’s that are full of people who were elected to speak up for their constituents.

GOING – GOING – GONE!

However, it is suggested they could rock up in the public gallery from time to time and let off a bit of steam, just in case they feel impotent.

Liz Townsend (Cranleigh); Paul Follows (Godalming) Jerry Hyman (Farnham) Andy McLeod (Farnham) Kevin Deanus (Alfold); David Beaman (Farnham); Mary Foryszewki (Cranleigh – though they’ve shut her up by making her deputy mayor) – and a few others who might as well take up knitting, spoke out!

And as for the most senior planning committee – known as THE JOINT PLANNING COMMITTEE – well that particular outfit will find itself reduced to a handful of councillors who will have their hands hung up so high they’ll think they’re in traction!

Mind you, not much change there then? Isherwood leading the posse of Carole  – the ‘villages of Cranleigh/Ewhurst aren’t exactly pretty anyway are they?” Cockburn; Rubber Band; By-Pass Byham; Mike (Wake me up when it’s time to go, go or vote Goodridge); Jeannette (we need more homes in Cranleigh-Stennett) and Patricia of the ‘secret meetings’ Ellis!

When they unveiled the expert’s tripe – which should be entitled ‘How to speed up planning and help developers in the Future.’ Councillors were given about 20 minutes to ask questions? Will the turkeys be permitted to vote for Christmas?

Needless to say the usual crowd of Follows; Deanus; Townsend & Co were against most of the proposals and a few of the ‘sheep’ chimed in too – so suffice to say, it wasn’t generally very well received. 

The idea of reducing the council’s planning committees to just one puppet committee is madness?

Clearly, officers were annoyed with members’ repeated questions…especially on big developments and affordable housing.

READ OUR LIPS YOU BLOODY COUNCILLORS MOST OF YOU ARE A PAIN IN THE ARSE SO BUGGER OFF TO THE BOONDOCKS WHERE YOU BELONG.  LET US ROBOTS SPIT OUT PLANNING APPROVALS AND LET US COVER THE COUNTRYSIDE IN CONCERETE!

The ‘expert” Cllr from Oxfordshire that was present was clearly all about funnelling planning consents down the Waverley conveyer belt as fast as possible. WW has heard they are doing a pretty good job in Oxfordshire!!   He thought ‘YW’ took far too much time actually debating applications!  Perish the thought!!

So there were we, the voting fodder,  thinking that our councillors wanted to be there, to speak and to vote and to argue on our behalf? Dummies that we are! 

Beam us all up, Scottie?

Happy bedtime reading?

Final Report to Waverley BC Sept 3 2018

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Waverley’s planning system is seen as the “battleground for the heart and soul​ of the borough’s future.”

  1. Actually WW
    Having read the document as you suggested. It looks to me as if some of the items make some sense. I have picked out the following Points that I thought were Interesting…. (text in or starting in Caps are my Comments)

    1.7 We found weaknesses in the levels of trust and confidence between some members and officers involved in delivering planning decision making and certainly between the majority of developers/agents, civic societies and many parish and town councils and the Service that we spoke to. Despite a recently agreed local plan we noted that there was limited common ground or meeting of minds in relation to how the borough should grow and it felt as though the planning system was almost seen as a battleground for the heart and soul of Waverley’s future.Therefore, trust and confidence in the Service and the very nature of planning as visionary and place shaping, both internally and externally needs to be rebuilt. The aims and new direction set by the corporate plan with its focus on prosperity and place and its emphasis on team work and efficiency sets a strong platform for a new way of working in Waverley.AGREE

    1.9 Planning decision making needs to be less process driven and far more outcome focused to meet even existing, let alone future, challenges. We see real opportunities for more delegation to officers with commensurate reduction in preparation time and attendance at committees. This will release resource for adding value to schemes at an early stage and time for greater customer focus.
    DON’T AGREE – More delegation to Planning Officers who are unelected with very few of them having an LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

    4.8 Opportunities to improve local infrastructure will increase if the council’s plans to introduce a community infrastructure levy (CIL) are accepted. This planning charge is a tool for local authorities to help deliver infrastructure to support the development of their area. On current time lines, CIL may be introduced in 2019 but this is dependent on the results of the Planning Inspectorate’s examination. It will be important for the Service to anticipate a potential surge in applications in advance of any introduction of CIL. The organisation and management of CIL will need to be built into the Service’s focus on delivery which is a theme of our peer review feedback.

    NO CIL until 2019…… Of course the number of applications WILL INCREASE to avoid paying it!

    4.12 Despite these good examples, we noted that members, internal and external customers, parishes and civic societies were slow to mention the positive ways in which the Service has guided development and secured significant investment in the borough’s infrastructure We put this down in at least some part to a lack of trust and confidence between some members, officers and external stakeholders in the Service which is a theme we encountered during the peer review and which we will pick up in the next section in the report.
    AGREE – we don’t trust Planners or anyone else to implement Infrastructure Improvements before Granting Planning.

    4.14 We were told about “green shoots” in the production of neighbourhood development plans (NDPs) with the making of one and on-going support for others. The made NDP at Farnham had already proved useful in defending non-allocated sites. Some civic societies and parishes felt that the resource devoted to support local communities was not sufficient to support proper NDP development. We did not have time to explore this in detail but we suggest that – as part of improved customer engagement – this concern is explored.
    YIPPEE – Until we have Neighbourhood Plans THE SERVICE (as the Planning Officers et al are referred to …..some Service!) Will continue to leave the parishes and towns to sort out their own Neighbourhood Plans with little or no support.

    5.2 The area has several extremely energetic and vocal civic societies who want the best for their local areas and have engaged significantly in development schemes, either trying to prevent development or radically improve the quality of it. Alongside such local societies, a number of high profile groups such as Protect Our Waverley Campaign Ltd have grown up to challenge housing numbers and strategic allocations. Waverley also has a generally well educated and articulate population which also increases the overall level of scrutiny and legal challenge in planning matters.
    5.3 It was clear from speaking to many councillors and external bodies that the council was finding it difficult to agree to housing schemes due to pressure from local residents concerned with new market housebuilding and the loss of greenspace and the lack of supporting infrastructure. Waverley is widely regarded by its residents as having one of the highest ‘quality of life ratings’ in England and many are opposed to change.Understandably this puts pressure on local councillors when applications are proposed in their wards in order to satisfy borough wide housing needs
    AGREE there are lots of Intelligent and vocal people in the Borough and so there should be as there seems a distinct lack of them in PLANNING

    5.6 A similar theme throughout the peer review has been the lack of full trust and confidence and effective team-work between members (when acting as planning decision- makers), and between members and officers in relation to planning decision making. We were advised, for example, that councillors in Farnham could not be expected to take planning decisions on applications in Cranleigh as they did not know the area and would be unable to reflect local concerns.
    AGREE – With regard to the Dunsfold Park application almost all those in Favour were from outside of the East of the Borough where the greatest impact would be… Of course they wanted Development here rather than in Farnham, Godalming etc…

    7.5 The planning committee meetings were well attended by members, with most making numerous contributions. Officer/member interactions were broadly good (although a sense arose at times that members were not completely trusting of the advice given to them by their officers). We are aware of at least one complaint to the monitoring officer and were told that not all member comments are made in a constructive and respectful manner.
    Whilst members can clearly challenge officers this must be done in an appropriate manner in line with the council’s own planning committee code of good practice. While we view this code as comprehensive and easy to understand, there did not seem to be a wide understanding of it by either members or officers.
    AGREE – Often the Information provided by Planning Officers is misleading or inaccurate – it is little wonder Councillors are mistrusting!

    7.7 During our interviews, we found a good knowledge of the planning process among members. However, too often during debates at planning committee, that knowledge was not put to best use, with members straying into non-planning issues. It is clear to us – both from watching the meetings and further conversations with members – that there is a blurred line between members’ perception of their role as community representatives and that of decision makers on a planning committee.
    7.8 This is not unusual; it is a difficult task for non-planners to leap from setting out local concerns one minute, to debating material considerations another. Undoubtedly, additional training could help members in this, but best practice elsewhere suggests ward members stepping back for items in their ward leads to a clear distinction of roles (for the members themselves and for clarity for those observing).
    7.9 We recommend that members step down from the planning committees and speak from the public speaking area when applications in their own ward are discussed. This will free up members from the start to carry about their community representation role to the full, while allowing them to impart their local and planning knowledge to the committee. Ward member speaking should be limited to the same time given to objectors and supporters.
    IN TWO MINDS.. this only gives the Ward Councillor 4 minutes to impart any LOCAL Constraints to the committee – But maybe additional “Training” will assist some with ensuring that once the Local issues have been raised – that they apply Material Constraints where possible.

    7.13 One suggestion might be that ward members have the right to request a site visit any time during the three weeks consultation period. This request is then put to the planning committee chairman for decision. If agreed the dates are arranged with the committee well before the determination date. This need not over-ride the authority of the committee to propose a deferral for a site visit during the debate, but such a deferral would only be agreed in exceptional circumstances when members have become aware of the matter warranting a site visit during the debate. The inclusion of video footage as part of the case officer’s presentation may assist the planning committee and reduce the number of site visits. A further suggestion to aid efficiency is that the chairman’s briefing and site visit actions get rolled into one.
    GOOD IDEA having the Site visit 2 days before the Planning meeting seems ridiculous as does issuing New Information just hours before the Meeting which seems to be occurring on a fairly regular basis.

    Then there is a ton of stuff about Ensuring Planning officers have the correct Experts etc and Allowing Parish Councillors a say – Which I think they get now anyway if they wish to speak?? seating arrangements etc to be more INCLUSIVE (bit wishy washy)

    THIS IS THE CRUX OF IT!!
    7.18 Members told us that it was important to have four area committees in order that ward members could better represent local constituents and better understand and reflect local issues. We were also told that for a council with a large number of councillors (57)1, it was important for as many councillors as possible to be given meaningful roles and responsibilities. Another reason we were told about was that Waverley was unique in having four highly distinctive towns that were so different in ‘complexion’ and ‘psyche’ that only four separate committees could effectively provide quality decision making.
    7.20 If pressed on a solution we would recommend the council to be bold and work towards having one strategic decision-making committee taking the best principles and operation from the existing JPC that already deals with the larger and more strategic planning applications. This would mean dispensing with the four area committees. We feel that the number of members on the restructured committee should ideally be in the region of nine – thirteen. This would help facilitate specialised training and sharpen planning policy debate including the weight to be attached to material considerations. The one committee should also aim (subject of course in part to the size of applications in front of it) to deal with six-nine items per siting. This would avoid the need to meet, as is happening to the JPC, six times between 25 July – September 2018.

    MY QUESTION ON THIS is WHO would be on the Committee? WHO WOULD CHAIR the committee? (The Char has a casting Vote generally in favour of the Planners recommendation)
    As pointed out in the Report, there will always be a degree of Localism from Councillors – they are elected and want to be re-elected. We have seen this with the JPC on various Applications over the years

    8.10 Many parish and town councils we spoke to did not feel that their comments were taken seriously as part of the planning decision making process. Some felt poorly trained in what were the main policy issues that carried weight and there was a lack of clarity over the basis for the council allocating of some sites for development which conflicted with the local wishes which favoured other sites.
    8.11 Civic groups with a specific interest in a sense of place and therefore planning, felt distant and removed from the planning process. It was concerning to receive feedback that they wondered why they should bother responding to planning applications when they considered that no one was listening or engaging with them over their concerns. In connection with the relationship between neighbourhood plans and Part 1 and Part 2 of the local plan, representatives told us that there are clear differences of opinion that need to be debated and agreed in relation to housing numbers.
    8.13 It will be important for the council to recognise that the depth of distrust and unhappiness that has built up among some customers and civic societies in particular and the long-term importance of dialogue, listening and engaging that will be necessary to restore confidence. We understand that the council is due to employ a new communication and engagement manager and is looking to the post-holder to expand the role from a more traditional communications manager. It will be useful for the new post-holder to work with the council’s SMT and service managers to deepen engagement with customers and stakeholders, to drive improvement in trust and confidence, and improve joint working and delivery around the key corporate objectives
    SO IN OTHER WORDS – Local Views account for Little to nothing – but there will be a NEW (and no doubt expensive) Communications & Engagement Officer – Who will probably live in Weybridge or elsewhere out of Waverley and will have as little Knowledge as the rest of the Planning Officers.

    IN my view they have pointed out that “The Service” (Planning officers etc..) need more training, more experience in The Real World! and Councillors would benefit from more training with regard to making Informed Planning decisions based on Planning Criteria – All Good…. Rebuilding Trust is going to be tricky! And unless they can come up with a REALLY CUNNING PLAN to sort out how ONE Planning Committee can Honestly and Fairly make decisions for the Whole Borough then I think we will be in a worse situation than we are now.

    Sorry this is so long – But the actual Document is 24 Pages… and I honestly only picked out what I thought was pertinent!

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  2. Which Planning Meeting was this on? Would love to see it – But nothing Up there on the WebCasts (as usual) since 19th Sept. – Interesting to see New Software Planned for 2019… Can’t be any worse that the cr*p that is there Currently

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  3. You will probably hear about this when all the decisions have been made. Remember, you are merely the voting fodder! The fodder that is being affected by Your Waverley’s, slow, and poor decision-making process.

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