Planning decision didn’t seem well informed or democratic

The Recycling Centre in Bury.

The Recycling Centre in Bury. - Credit: Archant

Events of the last week have called the entire planning system in Suffolk into question – and have left a nasty taste in the mouth for many people affected by it.

While granting planning permission is mainly a district or borough decision, if the county council is the applicant, if it involves digging holes in the ground, or if it involves waste disposal then the county makes the decision.

Therefore there were two reasons why it was up to the county council to decide on whether a waste transfer station should be allowed on the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds last week.

As someone who has been to more planning meetings than I care to remember, it’s always been said there are two basic principles that should be adhered to:

1) That the people making the decision should know the area they’re deciding on.


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2) That party politics should have no part in the decision-making process.

It was fairly clear that last week neither of these principles was allowed to get in the way of one part of the county allowing another part of the county to do what it wanted.

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I don’t live in Bury, but I have lived and worked there in the past and I’m still a reasonably regular visitor so I feel I know the place reasonably well.

The question seemed finely balanced before the debate started – but once evidence about the proposed housing estate on the opposite side of the road and the fact that it will lead to a halving of the existing household waste recycling centre was raised, it became clear why the borough was unanimously against the proposal.

However it was also clear that some of those charged with making the decision had no knowledge of Bury, or the issue of waste disposal, whatsoever.

One committee member said: “Surely there is more than one recycling centre in Bury!” There isn’t – and her comment showed her total lack of knowledge of the issue.

Other committee members – as opposed to local members making their case – said very little of interest in the meeting.

Frankly if councillors on a planning committee don’t have the local knowledge needed to make the decision, what’s the point in paying their expenses to come to the meeting in the first place?

Why not save the time and money and just get the head of waste disposal to say to the head of planning: “It’s okay if we go ahead with this next project, isn’t it?

Because of course when we had the vote all six Conservatives on the committee supported the proposal while most of the opposition voted against.

I’m sure the Tories will claim this was just a happy coincidence. It didn’t feel like that in the meeting, and they will have to work hard to convince their party colleagues from Bury of this.

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