Council Leader pledges to end what he says are inconsistencies in planning department

FENLAND Council Leader Alan Melton today pledged to end inconsistencies in the planning department. He claimed that on one occasion a planning officer told a developer one thing and after great expense, a further officer told him something completely dif

FENLAND Council Leader Alan Melton today pledged to end inconsistencies in the planning department.

He claimed that on one occasion a planning officer told a developer one thing "and after great expense, a further officer told him something completely different".

Cllr Melton said: "Sounds familiar? Since I became leader I have received a number of communications from developers and applicants about inconsistency within planning.

"I know this is an old chestnut but I am concerned about some of the issues".


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Cllr Melton said another bone of contention revolved around Cambridgeshire County Council's policy on highways issues.

"The advice we receive is not consistent with our ambitions or our economic and housing strategies," he said.

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"Last week I was alerted to one in particular which could prejudice a major development and leisure facility in Fenland."

Cllr Melton said he had asked Councillor Kit Owen, a Cabinet member with responsibility for strategic planning, "to look into these and other issues."

YOUR COMMENTS

HE claimed that on one occasion a planning officer told a developer one thing "and after great expense, a further officer told him something completely different".This has been happening for years. I could provide numerous examples where applicants have been told by an officer to completely redesign something (at considerable cost) only for another officer to either prefer the original design, or something different again.And what’s worse, about a year ago they changed the pre-application procedure. You used to be able to go in for a preliminary discussion with an officer, and be given some idea what might be acceptable (although they often changed their minds by the time you had done a drawing). But now you’ve got to provide absurdly high levels of information before they’ll even talk to you.And what about unqualified officers making important planning decisions? Disgraceful! Are any of the officers actually a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)?Open for Business? B*****ks!CHATTERING MAN

INCONSISTENCIES is an understatement!I'm still waiting to find out why the applicant for the proposed gambling arcade in March was able to have workmen on the premises doing work before planning permission had been granted, including installing a full set of windows to the rear of the building which overlook the flats for the elderly at Hansart Court. Perhaps Cllr Melton could start by answering that question.On the other hand... he may like to enquire as to why his planning officers seem to have put up all sorts of difficulties in the way of someone trying to open a new business as a coffee shop and deli in March over a period of about six months with the result that the applicant has now decided not to proceed.It seems to me there should be a complete shake-up of the planning dept at Fenland District Council, starting at the top.REG KEMPMarch

GOOD on Cllr Melton, about time!Hopefully he will shake things up enough to expose one or two of the officers for who they really are.I have to agree with Chattering Man. Are these people, who are there to advise our elected members, even qualified or indeed intelligent enough to do so, do they really understand planning?Maybe when it comes to a house extension, but when it comes to something more important for the district it would appear that they are way out of their depth.They are all quite happy to sit on the fence and not give an opinion, typical civil servant, keep it safe! They are employed to advise.With the controversy surrounding the hostel in Wisbech, the arcade in March and the supermarket in Whittlesey, I see it was decided that Cllr Martin Curtis be given "a coaching session" by the monitoring officer on chairing meetings and on the code of conduct on planning matters. Perhaps the head of planning should join him!OCTAVIA LAWLEY

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