Planning System Crushes The Little Man

Our planning system is biased in favour of developers against ordinary people. It is biased at every level but as often is the case you can only see the biases when you engage with the system. I’ve been on the council’s planning committee for three years and I’ve seen first-hand how our system operates:
First level of institutional bias: In 2012 the government changed the law to a “presumption for sustainable development”. This changed the planning process of evenly weighing up each side of an argument to one where the decision is presumed to be in favour of the development and the onus is on the opposers to argue against the development.
Second level: Developers have deep pockets that gives them access to professional expertise. This is very much a David & Goliath situation where individuals and small groups of local residents are pitched against profit driven developers that in some cases are set to make millions of pounds.
Thirdly: Unseen access. Developers know the officers in the council planning department. I am pretty sure that there are no brown envelopes being used. I do have the utmost respect for the officers. However the system allows for developers to pay a relatively small fee to seek pre-application advice from officers. This can entail face to face meetings and telephone contact that enables developers to create good working relationships. This will certainly improve the applications submitted. However generally normal residents do not have this level of access with planning officers.
Fourthly: Asymmetric right to appeal planning decisions. If a decision goes against a developer they have a right to appeal, if successful their costs will also be claimed against an often cash strapped council. Yet if a decision goes against local residents there is no right to appeal.
Lastly: The Planning Committee in Worcester is literally not allowed to reject planning applications without a cooling off period yet no cooling off is required if an application is accepted. I have found it relatively rare that the planning committee goes against officer advice and reject a planning application. However when it does it is only able to state a “Minded to refuse” decision. The application then goes back to the next monthly planning meeting where the officers generally have another go at getting the committee to agree the application. Admittedly this cooling off period does allow the officers to prepare cogent written reasons for the refusal that can be used if the developer goes for an appeal but the point is that this cooling off period does not apply if the application is passed so is another example of the asymmetry of the planning system.
If you are interested to receive future reports for our area you can get notifications of new posts by liking and following my councillor facebook page: Facebook Updates or if you can sign-up for my email newsletter: Newsletter Updates