BedsLife January 2016 Planning for the best
These two meetings were very different. There was no single planning proposal which had caused concern, but constituents wanted to ask about the process of taking a longer view of the increase in housing numbers in the area, and above all about a co-ordinated view involving many different services. It seemed to them that although a local plan, put together by our councils who do indeed endeavour to think ahead, could look forward a number of years, and do its best to ensure development of new estates or village additions were well spread, existing residents could not see how such developments were tied up with policing needs, bus timetables, major road proposals and the provision of health services, for example. And by health, not simply a GP’s surgery – there are one or two places which either have buildings, or empty plots where buildings were planned- but the actual supply of doctors and medical staff.
Some of these issues, whilst hugely relevant to the way people live, are not strictly planning matters according to law, so councils cannot take them into account when making an individual planning decision. But they are very important to established communities asked to accept a new wave of housing to meet the overall growth of the region. Those who had asked such questions of those in authority reported to me that they felt either brushed off, or not listened to.
I found both meetings really good, and one of my first tasks in the New Year is to find out from those wider authorities how best to meet this request for both more information and greater involvement. 2016 demonstrated a frustration amongst the public that decisions were too often done to them. I cannot suggest that all decisions in the future will be to everyone’s liking, but those of us in representative positions have got to work harder to ensure greater trust, transparency and answers.