Cut red tape on planning, says councillor

Arlington parish councillors John Parsons and Doreen Goodchild , resident Philip Carse , broadband campaigner Chris Wollaston  and (seated) Wealden District Cllr  Roy Galley
Arlington parish councillors John Parsons and Doreen Goodchild , resident Philip Carse , broadband campaigner Chris Wollaston and (seated) Wealden District Cllr Roy Galley

Wealden planning portfolio holder Roy Galley has called on Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to do more to remove the “needless red tape” surrounding the local planning process.

Cllr Galley, who is a Cabinet member for planning and development at Wealden District Council, said, “Despite Government attempts to simplify the planning process and help get the local economy moving, our hands are still tied by unnecessary regulations.

“The Department for Communities and Local Government could do much to speed up the planning process and remove the bureaucratic hurdles to economic growth, particularly in rural areas, by some simple changes. This would be far more effective than the DCLG’s proposed changes to Permitted Development Rights. Changes from office use will have an adverse and negative impact on the economic, social and environmental vitality of the country.”

Cllr Galley’s alternative suggestions include:

• Remove or reduce the need to consider detailed environmental aspects of small scale domestic and business developments.

• Review the rules on small domestic single storey extensions within Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to see if they can be brought more in line with non-AONB areas.

• Relax advertising regulations for promoting business for a limited period of time.

• Cut to six weeks the time limit for considering small domestic applications and allow approval if the application is not dealt with within this period.

•Combine Listed Building Consent and planning applications as one application - they are currently treated as separate applications.

Councillor Galley is also concerned about the amount of bureaucracy surrounding the Local Plan process, formerly know as the Local Development Framework, which for Wealden began in 2007.

After carrying out a series of consultations and representations with the general public and statutory consultees, the Council approved its Core Strategy Local Plan last November. It now faces a similar process to put in place more detailed Local Plan documents which embody the principles already approved in the Core Strategy.

Cllr Galley said, “It still appears to me an overly engineered, lengthy and confusing system for all concerned. Further consultation is still needed at the more detailed Local Plan stage, but given the tighter technical focus, I fear it may also raise false expectations. It is likely to encourage fruitless attempts by some to unpick decisions that have already been approved through earlier rigorous consultations and the Planning Appeals process.

“Currently the process is confusing to most, costly to many, and causes unnecessary delay rather than certainty.”

Councillor Galley is waiting for a response from the Secretary of State Eric Pickles and has offered to provide more information from the grass roots to assist the Department with its reforms.

Cllr Galley said, “As Cabinet member at Wealden with responsibility for the planning and development portfolio for the last few years I have become increasingly aware of a number of growing frustrations with the existing arrangements. I am keen to support the government’s push towards greater efficiency, clarity and simplification in the planning process and believe that implementation of these changes could be beneficial for everyone concerned, as well as the wider economy.”