Late Tuesday night, Conservative Councillors voted against exploring setting up three area planning committees for the three areas of Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch with a central board for strategic applications to replace the current, unwieldy single committee of 15 members for the whole conurbation. The move would have given greater levels of control over local planning decisions to councillors from these immediate area rather than keeping all decisions within Bournemouth town hall by councillors who have nothing to do with your area of the BCP conurbation. Almost all the votes in favour of the amendment came from Poole and Christchurch councillors whereas Bournemouth tories voted to keep planning decisions in their hands.
The Lib Dem led Unity Alliance administration asked the Audit and Governance committee to consider this change to the constitution in early 2020 to bring it into line with other large unitary councils like Wiltshire, Dorset and Bristol, and ensure that residents are served by smaller, localised committees of councillors with more relevant local knowledge.
Meanwhile nationally, the Conversative Government’s White Paper Planning for the Future is seeking to fundamentally reform the planning process. As well as removing the duty to co-operate between councils, and reduce the occasions where it is necessary to provide affordable housing, this will see the role of councils – and local residents - restricted yet further. This will be done by placing vast areas of the country in growth zones where planning permission will not be needed. We have both signed a letter from CPRE and FoE asking the Government to think again.