Get in touch: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting YORK to 80360 or send an email»
Coun Merrett hits back at planning taunt
A LEADING York councillor has hit back at a Government minister who singled out the city for criticism over its lack of a blueprint for future development.
Planning Minister Nick Boles, speaking at last week’s Conservative party conference, announced plans to allow building firms to bypass councils which “consistently” take too long to make decisions on proposals and go straight to Westminster instead.
He cited City of York Council as an example of failing in its planning responsibilities, saying it had not had a Local Plan – a strategy for how the city should be developed – for 40 years.
The authority abandoned its Local Development Framework core strategy this summer after serious concerns were raised by a Government inspector and new superstores and a community stadium at Monks Cross were approved.
Work is now starting on a replacement Local Plan, amid claims that York’s green belt could be at risk from developers before it is ready.
However, Coun Dave Merrett, the authority’s cabinet member for transport, planning and sustainability, defended York’s record on dealing with planning applications and accused Mr Boles of seeking conference plaudits.
The minister said the Government would introduce “special temporary measures” if councils were slow to make decisions or too many rulings were overturned on appeal.
Mr Boles said: “We believe in local authorities having the power to represent people and take local decisions.
“We don’t believe in them abdicating that responsibility, failing to have a Local Plan or failing to make decisions in accordance with that plan. They have a responsibility to do the job even when that involves difficult decisions – you cannot go on taking the mickey, and if you do, developers will have the option of going directly to the Planning Inspectorate.”
Coun Merrett said York had “a decent record” on deciding planning applications. He said: “The adoption of a planning framework has been a problem of the Government changing national planning policy at the drop of a hat, the previous council administration not adequately addressing the city’s housing shortage, and the overall viability of the previous planning framework.
“The need to bypass the council for planning applications is unlinked and erroneous in this case. Nick Boles was playing to a Tory conference, but you can expect him to be rather more serious in private discussions with the council over our commitment to protect the Green Belt and implement a Local Plan by 2015.”