Online planning system causes parish outrage

A PLANNING system has been branded ‘absolutely ridiculous’ and ‘rubbish’ by parish councillors.

Parish councils will no longer be receiving notifications of decisions being made by Northumberland County Council (NCC) through the post but will instead have to log on to the authority’s website to look at and print the notices.

But this has caused outrage at parish council meetings throughout north Northumberland.

At Rothbury, Coun Joy Morton said: “I find the whole planning process at a local level absolutely ridiculous. They don’t take any notice of us anyway.Now they are talking about putting notices on the website, what’s the point in responding. I really, really object to it.”

At Belford, Coun Geoff O’Connell said: “The planning portal computer system is rubbish. It’s the most difficult thing to find anything. I think it’s a retrograde step, I think it’s wrong and I don’t think it’s fair on the parish council.”

He added that in cases where notices were several pages long, it is imperative the council finds out about approval and conditions.

Lisa Hamlin, clerk to five parish councils, said: “It means I have to keep checking on the planning portal – which does not always work, secondly it is an increased cost to the parish clerks in relation to having to print off decision notices which can sometimes be rather lengthy when there are a lot of conditions attached.

“Finally I think I am right in saying that it is still a legal requirement for NCC to provide decision notices to parish councils.”

A county council spokeswoman said: “We have been working with our 148 parish and town councils to ensure that they can engage effectively with the planning system – and this has included workshops where we have explained how to view applications, make comments, track progress and view decisions online on the new public access system.

“This is in line with moves for more electronic exchange of information which is generally quick and effective. Where parish or town councils have specific issues we would encourage them to get in touch to discuss them with us.”