Yesterday (Wed 13th Dec 2017), at the Buckfastleigh Full Town Council meeting, The Council decided to dissolve it’s Planning Committee.
The Planning, Environment & Transport Committee, which evolved from the Planning Committee that was in place until 2015, has up till now examined and responded on every local planning application made to the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), Teignbridge District Council (TDC) or Devon County Council (DCC).
At the meeting we observed that as a Town Council we have in fact had no powers in terms of planning since 1974, when TDC took over most of the powers of the then Buckfastleigh Urban District Council, but that many local people still felt that we had some control over planning decisions. This has led to both misplaced hope that bringing a case to the Planning Committee will make a difference to their case and consequent blame when planning decisions go ahead regardless of their concerns.
It has been made quite clear in recent years that the carefully considered and well-infomed responses to planning applications to DNPA, TDC and DCC have been ignored by their planning authorities in reaching decisions. In fact BTC has recently lodged a formal complaint lodged with DCC about it’s inability to enforce plannning legislation and it’s misconduct in issuing planning notices in the case of Whitecleave Quarry.
Since the start of this council in May 2015, none of the responses submitted by the council in response to any major planning proposal in the parish has had an appreciable effect on the outcome. This includes the Town Council’s responses to the DNPA for piecemeal development of the Devonia site at the heart of the town which has now twice been given permission to demolish and build afresh. This despite the Buckfastleigh Neighbourhood Plan, initiated by the Town Council, which, after prolonged and detailed consultation with local residents, has recommended developing a Masterplan for the site which takes into account flood mitigation and coherent future mixed-use and also after assurances that DNPA would work ‘closely’ with us in future and that ‘mistakes’ had been made in the past.
We are quite sure too that our carefully expressed concerns about the upcoming plans for 80 plus new homes at Barn Park and Holne Rd (despite proven lack of local housing need), resulting in increased traffic/parking issues, flood risk and pressure on local amenities, will also be ignored by the DNP, who, in line with the the other authorities, seem always by default to find in favour of commercial developers whilst disregarding the needs of local residents.
We feel that by maintaining a ‘Planning’ committee, which is clearly impotent, we are misleading the public and misdirecting any concerns they have. We believe it would likely have more impact if all the individual councillors and members of the public made their own representations to planning authorities (although evidence is limited that this has any effect either!) and we don’t want to be duped into inadvertently acting as fodder for those authorities going through the motions of carrying out statutory consultative procedures, unless our opinion is actually given some weight.
We will continue to flag up any planning proposals that are likely to have a significant impact on the parish and fight for the interests of our constituents, but we will no longer formally meet as a planning committee to formulate our responses – these will come from full council. The current Planning, Environment & Transport committee will be dissolved and it’s members will meet to discuss any future remit.
Buckfastleigh Town Council