Society opposes planning changes in Northumberland

Latest planning applications.
Latest planning applications.
  • Review of planning service has sparked controversy and criticism
  • Parish councils fear for the loss of a local voice in decisions
  • Council chief has said significant issues must be addressed

One of the North East’s oldest and most prestigious civic organisation has opposed controversial proposals to change Northumberland’s planning system.

As previously reported by the Gazette, the review comes following a report by the council’s external auditors Deloitte, along with other reviews carried out by the Planning Officers Society Enterprises (POSE), part of the Planning Advisory Service.

Speculation about the proposals and the impact of the review have caused concern and led to the council’s lead executive director Steven Mason speaking out to provide clarification on some of these issues last month.

Now, the Northumberland & Newcastle Society – formed to preserve the heritage of both city and county – together with the Council for the Protection of Rural England have outlined their objections.

If all this goes ahead, the people of Northumberland will have much less say in planning applications; most decisions will be made entirely by county council officers, say the Society, adding that the review is being rushed through without proper consultation, contrary to the council’s own principles of localism and local democracy.

They refer to comments from Karen Carins, chairman of Stannington Parish Council, who said: “Residents rely on us to work with outside bodies, on their behalves, to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Using town and parish councils as scapegoats for the unsatisfactory audit of the planning system is both false and insulting. Many applications have been won and lost because of the intervention of committed parish councils who have found mistakes within the applications mainly due to their local knowledge and the knowledge of their communities.”

New procedures will of course allow all views to be taken into account when making decisions – but those decisions must be on sound planning reasons

Steven Mason, lead executive director at Northumberland County Council

The Northumberland & Newcastle Society, The Council for the Protection of Rural England and many town and parish councils are calling on county councillors to reject the current proposals and to engage in proper consultation on the problems and effective solutions.