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Calls for BCP council to give Christchurch its own planning committee



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FRESH calls have been made to bring in a BCP Council planning committee dedicated to the Christchurch area.

Five town and parish councils have told the authority they would like to see three planning boards – including two each for Bournemouth and Poole – rather than just one for the whole conurbation, writes Trevor Bevins of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Dorset Council already operates an area-based planning system which local councillors say makes best use of local knowledge when deciding applications.

Five town and parish councils want more local knowledge when BCP make planning decisions (picture: Steve West)
Five town and parish councils want more local knowledge when BCP make planning decisions (picture: Steve West)

Cllr Bob Hutchings, chairman of Highcliffe and Walkford Parish Council, put the case to BCP councillors supported by Christchurch Town Council, and Hurn, Burton, and Throop and Holdenhurst parish councils.

“We believe that a change to the existing committee system would significantly improve the confidence the public would have in the decision-making process,” said Cllr Hutchings.

He told BCP Council members that it seems “highly probable” that only three committee members will have local knowledge of the site when the next planning application for Highcliffe goes for a decision.

He said in relation to Poole, it would be around 20% of the committee.

Cllr Bob Hutchings is chairman of Highcliffe and Walkford Parish Council
Cllr Bob Hutchings is chairman of Highcliffe and Walkford Parish Council

Of 16 authorities which were compared in a report drawn up for the town and parish councils by a planning consultant, only four operate with just a single planning committee.

“The other 12 all have some form of area-based committee,” said Cllr Hutchings. “So authorities such as Bristol, Bromley, Cheshire East, Barnet – all very similar in size, population and planning activity to BCP – operate successfully with more than one committee.”

He added: “We are fully aware that BCP Council has previously looked at this issue and then it decided to retain its single planning committee.

“But with elections less than two years away we think the lack of confidence that we’ve seen in the decision-making process needs to be addressed.”

The council’s overview and scrutiny board said it will look at issues around planning, probably at its November meeting when other planning issues are also likely to be considered.



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