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written by The Justice of the Peace on the 30th March 2017 at 14:05

A few years ago I attended for the first time a committee meeting of the borough planning committee. My presence was not as a councillor but as an objector to a proposal which was likely to have an effect on amenities near my home. The visit proved interesting. Although objectors to the three other planning applications before the committee were allowed to exceed an allotted three minutes my neighbour and I who, in our opinion, had more to complain about than the others, were cut off in full flow at the allocated three minute deadline. When the applicant of the proposal to which we objected took the stand he made three statements in his five minute rebuttal which were simply lies. My neighbour upon getting to his feet to object was ordered by the committee chairman to sit down and be quiet upon pain of exclusion. Is this local democracy in action? My long held disquiet at the machinations of planning officials, committees and their approvals was not dispelled by my experience that evening. To cap it all an earlier application to which we were witness and which was heavily criticised by many on the nine person panel was granted approval after a committee member pleaded that if it were refused it would on appeal almost certainly be approved and therefore the cost of said appeal to the council would be a waste of council tax payers` money. My thoughts at the time were unprintable. With that background a return to the happenings within the magistracy might be seen in context.

I was in court two days after the above meeting. One of my colleagues had been a person I had had the privilege of sitting with on her first two sittings ever some three or four years previously. After the above sitting she mentioned casually during the usual informal chit chat I enjoyed having with colleagues irrespective of whether a formal post court discussion with the L/A was or was not worth the time, that some few months prior the bench chairman had stated during a discussion on whether special reasons had been established not to disqualify an errant driver that if the bench declined it would be overturned on appeal. That argument apparently persuaded her colleague but not her to vote with the chairman to allow for the establishment of special reasons. My other colleague and I were dismayed. We left the building feeling that enough had been said.

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