Martock plans rejected (for now)
The controversy surrounding the plans to build 120 more houses on a greenfield development site along Coat Road, Martock continues. The original application for this site was refused by SSDC’s Regulation Committee in July. But now back came an application that was (broadly) the same.
Today at the Area North Committee councillors voted by 7 votes to 4 to reject the new outline planning application.
This was after all councillors had been given an email by the legal officer giving them “guidance” on the application. This fact was acknowledged at the start of the meeting.
So important was this guidance that the Committee ejected the public for 30 minutes and went into closed session just to discuss what it meant. Once again a key part of the process was hidden from public view, but this seems to be becoming quite common in the new look SSDC.
Also at the start of the meeting we learnt from Cllr Neil Bloomfield who as councillor for Martock had voted against the original application, that he had been the subject of a complaint. Apparently the developer had made the complaint but the details could not be given to the public. Under the rules both parties have to agree to make the details public. Cllr Bloomfield stated he was happy for his part.
So we asked the developer if they would tell the public why they were not happy to have the details of the complaint made public.
For whatever reason, they chose not to answer that question.
We also asked during public questions about a number of other issues. We asked for instance why after the first planning application on this site had been turned down, officers not councillors had decided not to defend an appeal.
We were told by the legal officer at the meeting that this was not true. Instead she told the meeting “councillors and not officers made the decision not to defend the appeal.”
This was interesting, because The Leveller® has seen notes that seem to say the opposite, and I quote “A decision was taken by the Council (under officer delegated powers) not to defend the reasons for refusal.”
That is council language but good old wikipedia defines this for us “Delegated powers are given in the United Kingdom to local planning authority planning officers to determine planning applications without the requirement for the application to be put before a planning committee (ie councillors).”
We will be giving a fuller report on the issues around the way these decisions are being taken in the December edition of The Leveller®