North area planning committee: Conservation advice ignored by councillors

Coun Heather Cairns wanted to follow the officer's advice, but her fellow members did not agree.
Coun Heather Cairns wanted to follow the officer's advice, but her fellow members did not agree.

Councillors went against the expert advice again last week, despite recent concerns about the county’s planning committees and appeals.

A scathing review of the planning system has recently been completed by Deloitte, prompting the county council’s administration to propose a number of changes.

One of the concerns in the report was the number of appeals and the number of appeals lost, following the area planning committees going against the advice of the planning officers.

At the February meeting of the county council’s north area planning committee, a proposal to install a dormer window at The Hemmel at Paxton Dene, Longhorsley, was recommended for refusal due to concerns from the conservation officer of the impact on a connected listed building.

The scheme’s architect claimed that the property in question was built in 2001 and members felt that the listed building should be protected, but not ‘the modern addition’.

However, Coun Heather Cairns disagreed.

“It’s about something that’s harmful to the entire spread of buildings,” she said. “I think it’s very sad that we employ a conservation officer and completely ignore her advice.”

One of the issues being considered as part of the review is the triggers by which an application is referred to a planning committee. The council is reviewing whether objections by a town or parish council should be an automatic trigger for an application to go to committee.

It was pointed out at the meeting that parish councils are in danger of losing some of their influence and therefore it was perhaps not wise that on two of the applications, the parish councils had objected, but not turned up to speak.