As reported in this paper a couple of weeks ago a Government Planning Inspector has over turned a decision by the Planning Committee of Lancaster City Council and ruled that 37 homes may be built on land in Bolton-le-Sands, despite vehement opposition by the Parish Council and local residents.
It reminded me of a campaign I was involved in last year to stop the closure of The Greaves Hotel and it’s conversion into flats.
Again, in Greaves local residents were overwhelmingly against development they saw as detrimental to the nature and quality of the place where they live and they persuaded the Planning Committee at Lancaster City Council to reject the application.
However, just as happened with the green field site in Bolton le Sands, on appeal by the Developer a National Planning Inspector over turned the local Planning Committee’s rejection of the Greaves Scheme.
As a consequence many residents in Bolton-le-Sands and Greaves have been left feeling disheartened that their hard graft in putting up posters, knocking on doors, getting signatures on petitions and attending Council Planning Committee Meetings, was all for naught because it seems the realpolitik is that if a local decision does not fit in with national policy it will get swept aside anyway.
The whole thing is a classic clash of national versus local interests and it seems the Government is trying to face both ways.
On the one hand, the Government is going for growth and taking a bonfire to numerous planning laws and regulations in order to both stimulate the economy and provide housing stock to control house price inflation, yet locally we want control over the place where we live.
In the introduction to the Localism Act 2011 it says the Act ‘will devolve greater powers to councils and neighbourhoods and give local communities control over housing and planning decisions”.
Confused? Well it seems like the Government are saying “Power to the People - but only if we agree”.