Ottery councillors express ‘strong and unanimous condemnation’ of planning reform

Richard Copus, chair of the planning committee. Picture: Archant

Richard Copus, chair of the planning committee. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

‘Outraged’ Ottery councillors have condemned the Government’s proposed overhaul of the planning system, fearing it will remove local influence over new housing developments and other building projects.

The chairman of the town council’s planning committee, Cllr Richard Copus, has written to the East Devon MP Simon Jupp expressing councillors’ ‘strong and unanimous condemnation of the Government’s proposals’.

The Government aims to ‘streamline and modernise the planning process’ so that new homes and other developments can be built more quickly.

Under the proposed system, all local authorities would have to designate land for ‘growth’, ‘renewal’ or ‘protection’, and specify the types of development acceptable in each of these areas.

Once an application is submitted that meets the criteria for the area it lies in, it automatically receives outline planning approval – although there are stricter restrictions in ‘protected’ areas than in the other two.

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In his letter to Simon Jupp, Cllr Copus said: “The proposal which drew the strongest criticism - and it would be no exaggeration to say that councillors were outraged - was the proposal to remove the opportunity for the general public and councillors to comment on, and seek to influence, planning applications.

“This takes away one of the fundamental rights of local democracy.

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“Ottery St Mary Town Council considers that this proposal is nothing less than an attack on the democratic principles that underpin our system of government. The Town Council therefore calls on you, as a matter of urgency, to do everything that you possibly can to persuade the Government to withdraw the White Paper and to abandon these unnecessary and highly damaging proposals.”

Mr Jupp replied to Cllr Copus a few days later, but his response fell short of reassuring him.

His reply said he will be ‘carefully scrutinising the legislative proposals’ and that he ‘does have concerns over how we determine the number of new homes East Devon needs’.

Cllr Copus said: “He ignored the section in my letter about the importance of local democracy and accountability.

“There are still a lot of grey areas in this White Paper which hopefully will be ironed out soon. Most of us agree that the planning process in England and Wales is far too slow, but it can be speeded up without diluting the democratic process.”

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