The eight elected councillors who sat in the meeting of the Development Management Committee this week sent a very clear message out to those who fail to meet their planning conditions.
Planning decisions can often be terse affairs and I am sure that everyone who is reading this article has themselves, or know of others, who have affected by a planning decision. Indeed some people only get to witness the city council at work when they become embroiled in a planning application.
The outcome can sometimes go your way if you are objecting but more often decisions go the way of the applicant.
This week though our elected members who sit on the Development Management Committee showed that they are not for being pushing around, either by applicants or by planning officers.
The issue involved a complaint that a development had taken place without complying with a number of planning conditions.
The site in question is that of the former Eagle Pottery, Ivy House Road, Hanley . Redrow Homes gained outline planning permission in 2005 for a residential development subject to a number of conditions.
The owners of the adjacent Goodwin Steel Foundry alleged that work has commenced without the developer complying with a number of the conditions imposed.
Goodwin’s have been involved throughout the process and are keen to ensure that the developer complies especially in relation to noise, odours, air quality, HGV parking and turning.
In addition to the allegations made by Goodwins, investigations have revealed that some of the works have taken place that are not in accordance with the approved permission. This includes works adjacent to the canal, surfacing and boundary treatment and landscaping.
The report prepared by the planning officers and presented to our councillors at the meeting recommended that the committee “Ëœnote’ the nature of the allegations and that they also “Ëœnote’ that there are ongoing negations with Redrow. Finally it was also recommended that members “Ëœagree’ that it would not be expedient to take enforcement action with respect to the breaches of the planning conditions.
Well let me tell you, the elected members present neither agreed nor noted the officers’ recommendations. They were not of a mind to be directed by the legal officer present either.
Cllrs Paul Shotton and Cllr Ann James in particular demonstrated that this committee was not for steering and would make its own decisions and come to its own conclusions.
Cllr Shotton proposed that enforcement action be taken against the developer for failure to comply with the planning conditions attached to the outline permission.
This was met with a worried look by the planning officers and an attempt at watering down the proposal by the legal officer.
She was concerned that the council would incur costs if the developer chose to fight the enforcement and she also feared that it would not be looked on favourably if the council took enforcement action against the developer on all of the conditions as negotiation were underway to resolve some of the issues.
Not to be deterred Cllr Shotton used the planning officer to help and advise on the wording of a proposal that allowed the committee to impose enforcement on the developer for the conditions they had neglected to adhere to.
The proposal to take enforcement action was unanimously voted through. All 8 councillors present were united and stood firm against the officers’ recommendations demonstrating that the allegations that councillors are led or directed by officers are unfounded.
Cllr Paul Shotton, the deputy leader of the council along with Cllr Ann James’s steely determination sent a very loud warning across to the officers that although Labour have a large majority on the council, when needed councillors will unite to ensure the right decisions are made.
This will not be an officer – Labour Party love-in as some administrations have been in the past.
This was an encouraging start to the ongoing fight to prove that true democracy is alive and kicking in the City of Stoke-on-Trent.