It was welcome news that the Tunstall Farm and Quarry Farm planning applications were deferred at the Planning Committee meeting last week. However, I suspect that this is unfortunately just a minor delay in the process.
I have previously stated that I am sceptical about the need for such a massive increase in house building in Hartlepool, and that whatever building does go ahead should never be at the expense of our green belt.
In Hartlepool currently there are over 1,000 properties up for sale with planning applications pending for a further 7,000. This equation proves my point that there is a falsely created demand.
I served on Stockton Borough Council’s planning committee when I was a councillor and would like to impart to you a fundamental flaw in the present system (across the country). I have seen applications submitted for large housing developments where there was almost universal disapproval – councillors’ opposed it, the people were against it, the residents were against it, with everyone warning of the faults and dangers of the application. Yet, despite such opposition, these collective objections were dismissed unless it could be proved there was a “MATERIAL” planning consideration – a wholly unsatisfactory and unhealthy situation.
As a Councillor you felt as if you were letting your constituents down by not carrying out their wishes, and the constituents felt as if they were being totally ignored – both valid reactions. When the people feel detached from the planning process then the process itself needs to be re-evaluated.
I believe that the planning laws need to change to reflect the views of the people they affect. I, and my party, UKIP, think that planning applications for (as examples) large scale housing developments and wind turbine installations should be made subject to binding, local referenda. This would truly put the power back in the hands of the people. It is ‘the people’ who are affected by major changes to their locality and it is only right that they should have the final say. It would, in effect, introduce real democracy into the system as developers and councils would truly have to engage with the electorate. No bad thing, in my opinion.