Northumberland County Council wants to impose changes to streamline the planning process, removing 3 local Area Planning Committee’s county wide and replacing with a central planning committee and delegated powers to officers.
The West Area Planning Committee was scrapped earlier this month with future planning decisions to be decided at Morpeth with the majority being decided without councillor input or contribution locally.
The Deloitte report focuses on effective and efficient use of resources-about saving money rather than about a balanced assessment of planning applications. Or are the new procedures being introduced to strangle debate and crush all opposition to anything that NCC wishes to impose upon Ponteland?
This proposal could be deemed as a serious threat to democratic local involvement in the planning process and could be perceived as lacking in transparency and accountability.
There is criticism in the speed in which this has been carried out by NCC as the consultation period had been shortened from 6 to 3 weeks. The release of the latest proposals for Ponteland has taken place after the end of the Final Draft Local Plan consultations, so avoiding any proper consultation on them.
This leaves our Town Councillors, locally elected by us, losing their statutory powers as consultees and unable to make comments on any planning application. In these circumstances what guarantee do we have that anyone will really listen?
Under the NCC proposals planning decisions will be made without any local knowledge and no meaningful consultation at local level.
Yet something else being imposed upon us
If that is not enough, NCC proposes for Ponteland should be deeply involved with new developments that will be subject to these new planning processes. These include the building new High, Middle and First schools and a Leisure Centre on a new site (on the Green Belt) allowing the existing sites to be released for future housing development.
The Town Library will be moved to the current Leisure Centre site in the short term and in the longer term it will co-locate on the new education and leisure campus. Halfway down Rotary Way, totally separate from the Town Centre!!!