Plea to BCP Council for separate Christchurch planning committee fails
A BID to have a planning committee dedicated to Christchurch has failed – although the matter may be reconsidered.
The plea to BCP Council came from five town and parish councils around Christchurch with a claim that the current system, of just one planning committee, puts their area at a disadvantage, writes Trevor Bevins of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
Highcliffe and Walkford parish chairman Bob Hutchings argued that residents had little confidence in the current system – believing that decision about the area taken by Poole and Bournemouth councillors meant local voices were not being fully heard.
Only three of the 15 planning board members on BCP Council come from the Christchurch area.
Planning committee chairman Cllr David Kelsey said he believed the idea should be reviewed, but not at a time when the planning department was being restructured and essential work had to be completed on a new Local Plan for the whole area.
He said that where councillors came from on his committee made little difference as each item had to be decided on policy and it was up to individual councillors to make themselves familiar with every item they were considering and the local policies in play. Each of the three areas currently has different local plans with varying objectives.
Cllr Hutchings told BCP Council’s overview and scrutiny committee: “There is a lack of local confidence in the system, our give local councils don’t believe that Poole and Bournemouth councillors will have local expertise about Christchurch.”
He said that many other areas, including neighbouring Dorset, did have area planning committees.
Christchurch Commons Cllr Margaret Phipps argued that having one committee for 400,000 residents and 161 square kilometres was not enough. She suggested having area committees of seven members, one for each town.
“The current system isn’t working for Christchurch and, possibly, isn’t working for Bournemouth or Poole either,” she said.
Former Christchurch borough council planning chairman, Cllr Lesley Dedman said the idea should be looked at again at a later time, arguing that there was also merit in having a committee for major applications.
The idea of area planning committees had been rejected by an audit and governance committee last year which set up a working group on the issue and was followed by a cabinet decision to keep the current system.