R4U have always been committed to open public engagement, and with the process of repairing the broken draft local plan underway, we appreciate the need to cooperate with all stakeholders to find a workable solution.
We very much welcome Joanna Parry’s agreement to represent R4U on the new Local Plan working group when they begin although we have some reservations about the constitution and operation of the group which have been raised.
There appears to be no genuine appetite for full and proper involvement of residents and local groups in the process other than a cosmetic permission to address the working group members for 3 minutes. This is no different to the ability of the public to speak at the start of planning appeals, only to retire silently to the gallery as councillors move on.
It has been argued that this working group is no more than a device to give delicate legitimacy to a discredited group whilst distracting the public from the core problems. It is difficult to see how the leader of UDC, so closely linked with the failed plan can be included in the new group, particularly given the persistent refusal to publicly acknowledge the scale of the problems. If you do not recognise a problem you can hardly begin to set about correcting it.
One could also question the lack of urgency in getting the group working. The inspector presented his report on December 19th, the group is scheduled to meet for the first time on January 26th, well over a month later. Why the delay, particularly given the fact that the majority party insist that the plan is ‘largely sound’? Surely, residents and councillors alike have had their attention drawn to the specifics that need rectifying, with some urgency?
I was disappointed with the result of the examination, though it wasn’t entirely unexpected. The subsequent response of the Tory group has been shameful, demeaning to other members and disingenuous. Residents have the device with which to change the political landscape in May 2015 and I firmly believe that will happen. Residents are not fools.