District could lose say on development
SUFFOLK’S biggest housing proposal of up to 2,000 new homes could be decided by Whitehall bureaucrats rather than local planners.
That’s the fear among some council insiders as the row between Suffolk Coastal District Council and parishes across the district took a new turn yesterday.
Waldringfield Parish Council has written to the district to express its concern that planners are using the new local development framework (LDF) to make decisions on major applications.
The LDF had been discussed and had been agreed by the council – but it had not been tested by the mandatory public inquiry before the General Election.
After the election new Communities Secretary Eric Pickles put a brake on the planning process and said there would be no further inquiries into LDF proposals.
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He then removed government targets for new home building and said councils could make their own decisions.
The district has since used its LDF to help determine planning applications – but Waldringfield is worried that this framework is inadequate for major decisions.
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The district is due to discuss proposals to build up to 2,000 new homes near the BT research centre at Martlesham later this year.
Waldringfield parish council chairman Ian Kay said his members were very concerned about the lack of a clear planning policy.
He said: “It is not just about the Martlesham proposal, although that is clearly a concern of ours. The fact is that the district is proposing to use a planning policy that does not have legal standing to decide major changes in the area.
“That could leave it open to legal challenges – but you cannot unpick a decision once planning permission has been granted.”
Some planning officers at the district fear that if they don’t use the partially-approved LDF to determine major schemes, the decision could be moved away to Whitehall.
There are fears that if they delay a decision until the position with the LDF is clarified, developers could put in an appeal on the grounds of non-determination.
That would leave the council facing the full costs of any planning inquiry, which could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds for a major development.
One council insider told the EADT: “We are rather stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
The promoter of the Martlesham scheme, BT, is understood to understand the district’s dilemma, although some of the agents involved are believed to be frustrated at the length of time the application is taking to be dealt with.
An official council spokesman said planning officers and councillors were working together in an attempt to ensure that the LDF process was complete and legally watertight – enabling councillors to make decisions that were clearly within legal guidelines.