Last night I went to a Cornwall Council 'basic planning' training session for councillors.
I was disappointed really.
Parish and Town councils are statutory consultees. We have three options when we receive a planning application. We can approve, not object or object.
The majority of applications that we see are fairly straightforward and make sense so are approved quite quickly.
However, there are often applications that just seem wrong. This is where, I feel, that town and parish councillors need help. We need to be shown how to make an effective objection to something that appears to be wrong for our community. The training provided is hopeless for this.
We are told that the only way to object is to cite 'material planning considerations'. The problem is that these days anything may or may not be a MPC. Last night we were given two convolouted definitions that needed to be met in order for something to be a MPC. We were told that there was no definitive list as to what was or was not a MPC (though we were then, confusingly, given a list of things that were or were not???)
We also looked at three scenarios based on real life applications from outside Cornwall. In each case the parish council had objected and been ignored by the planning officers. The subliminal message seemed to be that "it's no good objecting - you won't get anywhere anyway".
Another worrying fact that emerged was that where a town or parish did make an objection, that objection needed to get the support of the local Cornwall Council member before the application went to committee. This is the very reverse of localism. CC members may, as we have seen in May, have very littke local knowledge and may not even live close to their ED. Why is it that they have more say on an issue than the people on the ground in the community?