Developers get their way on County Hall, with near unanimous support by councillors
25th May 2023
After a chaotic meeting Councillors ignore Riverside Resident Association protests
Despite the enormous efforts of a local group of residents and the strength of the case 8 out of 9 Planning Committee councillors gave the go ahead to the scheme that will see ‘prison yard’ walls erected a few metres from the garden boundary walls of homes in Woodbines Avenue and Milner Road.
Riverside Residents write:
We are grateful to Ian George, the sole councillor to vote against the egregious harms these development will bring.
The planning officers had already revealed to us a group in April and in their report their support for the scheme, saying in summary the dis-benefits did not outweigh the benefits. (Dis-benefits which included the low proportion of affordable housing).
The councillors, who one has to trust have read all the submitted material to properly make an informed decision, felt too that all in all the scheme could not be refused as the were not sufficient grounds. They acknowledged the strength of feeling of the residents but were concerned that any refusal would likely fail at appeal, or indeed risk the original even worse scheme succeeding. The consequence of that would be large costs that would ultimately be paid for by the local community.
The meeting, packed with local residents, suffered a near catastrophic technical failure a few minutes after starting when the microphones and the livestream system broke. Using a portable PA system to only limited success the residents, who had been urged to bring their chairs as far forward as possible, struggled to hear the speakers.
Despite being initially told that we had ten minutes to make our case in the end it was only five. Robin Catlin and Tony Sharples, made our very compelling case in the difficult circumstances and we are grateful for the strong support provided by Councillor John Sweeney, who has supported us from the outset.
It is very difficult to believe that democracy is served when a large planning decision seems to merit so little time, with no way of knowing how competently our planning councillors have approached their task. And it is a big task, the developers application and officers report ran into 100s of pages, and our submissions into many dozens. Some of it is very technical, and it is a complicated to balance policies and directives, aspirations and goals. We would prefer to know in a more objective manner that our councillors make the right or best decision. The nature of the decision on the night is that it would be easy not believe this to be the case.
It was noticeable that design quality, now grounds enough for refusal, was never raised as a concern. An extraordinary omission given the proximity and impact of all the new build elements on the listed building.
We are very disappointed with the outcome of course in regards to the boundary issues but at least know we did all we could to influence the outcome, which the more cynical of us knew to be a forgone conclusion.
Barry Lomax chief planning officer presenting his case for approval