I’d like to know how they were able to reach planning decision

ON April 12 Calderdale Council gave approval for an agricultural dwelling (Special Landscape Area) at land at North Ramsden above Walsden.

This was the fourth such application at the site, as the previous three were refused by the council’s planning department. So how was this approved? As an objector to this development since 2005 and as the son of an adjoining landowner, I really would like to know.

My understanding of what occurred is as follows. After full consideration of the development, including referencing local and national planning policies the application was again recommended for refusal by planners last June. During the determination process Coun Olwen Jennings emailed the case officer and requested that if the application was recommended for refused, it be referred to the planning committee for decision.

There were no reasons given by the ward councillor for the referral, either in correspondence with the planning dept, or in the agenda notes to the meeting.

Relevant Calderdale guidance on the matter is as follows: “A councillor makes a written request for the application to be determined by the committee and the committee so agrees.” This was not done, so how did this application get referred to committee?

On July 13, with a planning officers report recommending refusal on the grounds that the application did not accord with the local and national policies for agricultural dwellings, committee members (Couns Coombs, Cooper, Thornber and Pearson) decided that they were “mindful to permit” and asked the senior planning officer present to report back to the committee with a recommendation that the planning application be approved subject to a legal agreement.

Last August the committeee recorded it’s view that it was mindful to approve the application.

Relevant Calderdale guidance for this states: “Members are not bound to follow the professional or technical advice given by their own officers, but where they do not do so, they will be expected to show that they had reasonable planning grounds for a decision contrary to that advice. They will have to produce relevant evidence to support their decision in all respects.”

Since this I have contacted the planning department and emailed the councillors themselves to ask for a justification for their decision to approve and cannot obtain any answers.

Quite clearly we have an application which if we follow Calderdale guidance on the matter was referred to committee without justification, and then approved against the planning department’s recommendation, again without justification.

That is the state of local democracy.

Alan Barker