Councillor calls for overhaul of Stockton Council's planning system

Steve Walmsley

Steve Walmsley

First published in News
Last updated
Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Stockton/Hartlepool)

A COUNCILLOR has called for a radical overhaul of Stockton Borough Council's planning procedure.

Coun Steve Walmsley, leader of the Thornaby Independents Association (TIA), made his comments after council officers used their power of veto on a planning committee decision to reject a plan to build houses on the former Tall Trees hotel site - the second time this has happened in recent months.

Coun Walmsley said the Government's New Homes Bonus - payments to the council for new housing schemes - was a worrying financial incentive for the authority to build more homes.

He also accused the council of "hiding behind" the Government's National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) guidelines which make it harder for local authorities to reject planning developments.

And he argued the committee should not be arranged on proportionate party political lines, alleging that could lead to decisions being made behind closed doors in party meetings.

Senior councillors have pointed out that councils across the country have lost appeals when rejecting new houses since the NPPF came into force and that can cost taxpayers' £30,000 a time.

If an authority loses too many appeals the Government can send in its own inspectors to take over the entire planning process.

Coun Walmsley said: "Let them do it. We can't have a gun at the head like that. Let's have guts. We are democrats and that means we have a moral duty to oppose what is unacceptable.

"Right now, we've got a Government-sanctioned land-grab, with the NPPF and the new homes bonus. Even ancient woodland is no longer safe."

In response, Bob Cook, leader of the council, said: "Council officers' role is to advise members. This means they must alert planning committee members if they feel the reasons for refusal are not sufficiently sound, or are not reasonable planning grounds to refuse an application in accordance with the planning legislation which the local planning authority, including the planning committee, is bound by.

"We do so to limit the council's, and therefore tax payers', exposure to the likelihood of awards of expensive costs."

Comments (1)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

3:07pm Mon 13 Jan 14

Cllr Mark Chatburn says...

Councillor Walmsley is absolutely right to speak out about the wholly discredited planning system within Stockton Council. It makes no sense whatsoever and is wholly unnecessary for the make-up of the planning committee, a quasi-judicial body, to reflect the political make up of the council thereby ensuring the Labour/IBIS coalition have a built in majority, particularly when we have seen so many controversial votes divided along political lines. The Tory's NPPF is nothing more than a developers' charter, for the first time in history making planning policy the slave to large housebuilders and not their master. For the Labour/IBIS councillors to acquiesce so readily whilst attempting to use government policy as a fig leaf to protect themselves politically is an insult to the intelligence of residents.
Councillor Walmsley is absolutely right to speak out about the wholly discredited planning system within Stockton Council. It makes no sense whatsoever and is wholly unnecessary for the make-up of the planning committee, a quasi-judicial body, to reflect the political make up of the council thereby ensuring the Labour/IBIS coalition have a built in majority, particularly when we have seen so many controversial votes divided along political lines. The Tory's NPPF is nothing more than a developers' charter, for the first time in history making planning policy the slave to large housebuilders and not their master. For the Labour/IBIS councillors to acquiesce so readily whilst attempting to use government policy as a fig leaf to protect themselves politically is an insult to the intelligence of residents. Cllr Mark Chatburn
  • Score: 2

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree