In my column back in July 2015, I said that the planning system was broken and that “The current presumption in favour ofdevelopment means the planning system is heavily weighted in favour of the developer instead of local people. We know we can influence the planning system but fighting a development Is often a battle between a well-funded, highly knowledgeable team of developer representatives versus the volunteer led, lay person driven, community campaign that represents the views of residents.”
The current planning system is to heavily weighted in favour of the developer. I can see why the Government would want it to be this way. After all, we have a housing crisis and we do need to build new homes but at the moment the system just seems really unfair to communities, particularly those here in Coleshill and North Warwickshire.
Take Daw Mill Colliery as an example. Planning permission was given for mining operations with a condition attached to force the company to restore the land to green field once mining ceased on site. The law has allowed the new owners, Harworth Estates to basically refuse to implement the condition of restoration and instead submit a further planning application for a distribution centre.
We’ve had a similar experience recently with SITA who manage the landfill site in Packington. When the original application was submitted for landfill it included a condition that when landfill operations ceased, the land would be made into a public park with picnic areas and public walkways. That’s basically another way of saying, the local community have to put up with this eyesore for a few decades and in return will get something back once we’ve finished with the land. Surprise surprise, SITA have now applied to have the condition removed meaning no public access to the site will be made available.
The planning system is rotten and it needs to change. Not only is it heavily weighted legally in favour of development, it is also so complicated, time consuming and technical that it often puts local people off from engaging in the process. It means well-funded developers can buy for experts and local people have to take time out of their own lives to research and learn the planning system when they want to fight for something they believe would be bad for their community.
I mentioned Daw Mill earlier and it’s important that we all have Daw Mill at the front of our minds. Despite the Borough Council’s unanimous refusal of planning permission for a distribution center on the site, the owners have appealed.
We shouldn’t forget that the plans for Daw Mill have a hug impact on our town. It would see HGV’s and other traffic directed through Church Hill and onto Blythe Road. It would mean hundreds of extra movements through our town every day. It would gridlock our town and be immensely damaging to one of our towns most historic roads which is home to many listed buildings.
The appeal will be heard in public at the Council Chamber in Atherstone and is likely to take place in early 2017. It is vital that locals from Coleshill are engaged in this process because the impact on our town is so great. I’ll ensure residents are kept up to date but in the meantime, spread the word and make sure everyone knows about how devastating these plans could be for our area.