Council must get to grips with planning system

Today’s announcement of a plan to build on greenbelt land between Acomb and Poppleton highlights the problems that lockdown is bringing for the planning system in the City.

An application for a major new development on Boroughbridge Road has been submitted.

The Councils Local Plan never got beyond the preliminary stages of a hearing in public before restrictions caused proceedings to be suspended.  

As so much of the Plan depends on – now impossibly unrealistic – assumptions about economic growth and the demand for extra housing that will bring not surprisingly some objectors are calling for a new plan to be developed.

But that would leave the City without a basis on which to judge individual applications for a period of 5 years or longer. It would also involve enormous cost which the taxpayer can ill afford. It isn’t even certain when revised ONS population figures could be published reflecting what is now called he “new normal”.

The “new normal” won’t be clear for at least a year.

Against that background, some developers are spotting the main chance and seeking to exploit the chaos in the planning system. Losing large chunks of the Green Belt to avarice would be a disaster for the City.

The Council only has itself to blame. They bounced their own Lowfields development – much of which is being built on playing fields – through the system before it could be subject to a proper public inquiry. The Council may, therefore, find it difficult to defend its position, if significant numbers of appeals are lodged against planning applications even if they have been rejected locally.

This also raises the issue of the role of the planning committee.

At least on “meeting” of the committee will be held later this month (21st May at 10.30am) to consider an application at the hospital. Many of its members will not be allowed to participate in what will be a “remote” meeting.

Instead what the Council terms a proportional sample will make decisions (Cllrs (Cullwick, Chair, Pavlovic, Vice Chair,  Ayre, Hollyer, Perrett, Kilbane and D’Agorne). The “proportion is based on the relative strength of the political parties represented on the Council. However planning decisions should not be determined by party political priorities. Each application should be judged on its merits.

Several Conservative and Independent members are therefore being excluded from the process, ostensibly on the basis that the more who log in the greater the risk of technical failure.

It may be that the hospital application will prove to be uncontroversial. The only outstanding application is for  the erection of vascular imaging unit on Wigginton Road. The application was submitted last August. The only significant issue appears to relate to drainage.

But there are other controversial proposals in the pipeline. The Acomb/Poppleton proposals may be the tip of the iceberg.

A more inclusive way of making decisions is required.

NB. We were sorry to learn of the passing recently of Rachel Macefield who was the lead planning officer for the Council on the York Local Plan. Our condolences to her family and friends.

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