Planning applications decisions are sometimes “finely balanced” but the presumption is in favour of permitting development, if policies are met.
Wealden District Council’s chief planner explains.
Planning authorities should facilitate applications and allow developments to proceed, if they meet local and national policies, Uckfield town councillors have been told.
The councillors were upset when Wealden District Council gave planning permission for a two-storey rear extension, plus a forward extension of a garage with the creation of living space at 6 Farriers Way, Uckfield, despite the town council plans committee objecting.
Councillors queried whether its plans committee was needed, if its views were not heeded.
Kelvin Williams, Head of Planning for Wealden District Council, wrote to the town council saying:
“Issues such as effects on street scene and neighbour impacts along with design are matters of judgement.
“Sometimes such judgements are finely balanced but in general planning authorities should facilitate applications where possible and allow development to proceed, if in line with national / local policy.
“In this case the views of the town council were taken into account and its objection triggered a referral to the Local Planning Member (Wealden) who in turn referred the matter to the planning committee for consideration.
“As a statutory consultee, parish and town councils are in a unique position, for example, an objection from ESCC [East Sussex County Council] would not trigger under Wealden’s constitution an automatic referral to the Local Planning Member.
Town council only a consultee
“The town council is, however, not a decision making body but a statutory consultee and as such there is a significant difference in roles between the district council as the planning / decision making authority and the town council as a consultee.
“In this particular case, there were no significant impacts on the neighbours in over-looking, loss of daylight or sunlight.
“The term significant is not backed by guidance and is a subjective assessment made in each case depending on the circumstances.
Important role of town planning committee
“I would, however, suggest, whilst the town council is not a decision making body, there is every relevance for you to maintain your plans committee, given it is important in terms of transparency ie: to hear the views of local individuals and bodies/communities.”
Mr Williams letter was considered by the town council plans committee and eventually “noted”.
In discussion, Cllr Mick Dean, Trust Independent, New Town, said the reply was patronising.
“The question we asked has not been answered. Basically, they have patted us on the head and said get back in your box,” he commented.
Cllr Duncan Bennett, Trust Independent, New Town, said councillors were representatives of the public and their views should have more effect.