Another good question from this month’s full council meeting, which has an obvious bearing on the concrete batching plant plans which were withdrawn last month after our residents’ traffic survey cast doubt on documents submitted by the applicant, Express Concrete (a subsidiary of Cappagh).
From: Richard English
To the Cabinet Member for Regeneration Environment and Housing
What checks do the Council undertake in order to ensure that the information provided in Planning Applications and supporting documents is accurate and truthful, and what action can the Council take in situations where these are proven to be false or inaccurate?
“All applications are considered by qualified trained planning professionals. Evidence submitted as part of a planning application is scrutinised and may be passed to a relevant expert within the Council or if necessary an outside expert. However, evidence submitted by professionally qualified individuals is considered on its merits and officers have experience and training on judging the quality of that evidence. If information is found to be false or inaccurate and that is fully demonstrated and accepted, the determination of the application will be delayed until the matter is resolved.”
The transport assessment for the Express Concrete application in Waterside Way was compiled by Bellamy Roberts, a well-known transport consultancy. When we met with council planners, they confirmed this was a company they were familiar with and one they trusted, despite the fact that it had submitted a report based on traffic movements recorded on a single day. A day of traffic movements which our efforts proved was unrepresentative for that site.
The current financial situation has put all council departments under a great deal of strain. Planners are understaffed and overworked. But we do hope that future planning documents will be read with a greater degree of scepticism, with evidence tested to ensure it is reliable.
At the very least, perhaps the planners we rely on to safeguard our neighbourhoods will pay due attention to ALL information submitted in response to applications, and respond to it accordingly?
The lesson to learn from our concrete batching experience is: test the evidence. Do not take no for an answer. Oh, and make sure you’ve got deep pockets: remember, it was only after the generous folks of Wimbledon helped pay for an environmental lawyer to argue our case that this planning application was halted.