I was pleased to see that Nick Herbert MP (Arundel & South Downs) has raised a question in Parliament about the Planning Inspectorate.
The Government states that it supports decentralisation to encourage decisions at grass roots level.
Yet in a planning decision on a skatepark at Steyning Grammar School, the inspectorate has reversed a unanimous decision of Horsham District Council (one abstention) on June 17, 2014.
I spoke in support of Steyning Parish Council and Steyning Grammar School when the Friends of Memorial Playing Field’s (FoMPF) planning application was heard (and rejected) by the district council.
The FoMPF appealed and the inspectorate found in their favour in January 2015. This action group opposes the upgrading of the existing and dated Tarmac skateboard facility on the MPF.
I fully support Mr Herbert’s view that local people should not be overruled on key planning decisions by the inspectorate, a quango, which has ignored locally-elected representatives both at parish and district level.
There was no opportunity to have any input because the inspectorate has not referred back to residents or councillors.
Mr Herbert is right when he says these kinds of decisions cause voters to become ‘disengaged’ from the democratic process.
How do our young future voters perceive democracy in Steyning when they have seen a town and public meeting vote overturned?
They have even seen how their own petition, accepted by the parish council, may not be implemented.
Our youngsters look to adults for guidance in understanding the democratic process but see it failing to deliver.
Steyning Grammar School has also been let down by the inspectorate’s decision. The school has less than the statutory playing space recommended by government and yet Jonathan Parsons, the inspector, made a decision which would remove even more play space from the school.
Fortunately, in this case, all stakeholders oppose a skate park on the school site. However, it has not deterred the FoMPF from continuing their campaign to try to persuade the school to give up land.
The actions of the inspectorate have created more confusion and division.
The decision made by the district council was the correct one given their knowledge of the four-year conflict and the certainty a skatepark would never be built there. Local knowledge is the best arbiter of such decisions.
I also agree with Mr Herbert that there must be a community right to appeal against these kinds of decisions, which are not in the best interest of all members of the community, including the next generation.
How did Mr Parsons arrive at his decision since he does not appear to have taken into account the full context of why the parish and district councils arrived at their original, and in my view, correct decision?
Kings Stone Avenue
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