Should Planning Decisions be left to RBWM Council Officers?

It was suggested at this week’s Windsor Town Forum meeting that the forum is for Windsor’s unparished area and performs the duties of the Parish Councils. In my experience Parish Councils do a fantastic job of reviewing planning applications but there is none of that at the Windsor Town Forum. Perhaps there should be?

Local applications could be discussed to get a better feel of how residents see their town evolving? Is that a good idea? Would probably treble attendance 😉

Recently there was some jubilation as Councillors voted against Officers’ guidance to refuse permission for the Castle Hotels new eating area in the entrance to the hotel.

The Windsor & Ascot Development Management Committee is made up of 5 Tory Councillors and 4 Opposition Councillors, as is Maidenhead’s Panel. This ensures the administration has an extra vote so they can control any decisions. The theory is that all Councillors come with open minds, not framed by politics, looking to apply planning law first but some of the decisions made recently have been questioned by residents.

A team of officers with years of experience in the complex planning process, paid thousands of pounds a year to offer guidance and advice on planning applications are being ignored.

Now I get why they were ignored in regards to the Hotel. The new dining area looks nice and brightens up the old Georgian frontage to the High Street opposite The Guildhall.

If we take another example in Maidenhead. Cala Homes were given permission to build 80 dwellings next to the river on flood plain back in November, against officer recommendation and the Environmental Agency advice. Why would you think that is a good idea?

There is a campaign at present to try and save Maidenhead Golf Course as the Borough Local Plan, currently under review by the Inspector, gives the green light to build 2000+ homes on ancient woodland. 

Bringing it back to Windsor. There is massive local concern about the small plots of land sold off at auction to ill advised buyers hoping to build themselves a home in West Windsor.

The officers are doing a fine job of protecting us at this time but should one of these plots go to the Planning Panel and the Tories are minded to grant permission because they believe it is in the best interests of residents! How would the community feel about that?

How about we allow a few Thames side dwellings down at Sutherland Grange. No need for plumbing, just deposit in the Thames, MPs seem happy with that 😉

If there are no rules then it becomes a free for all. So who is best placed to ensure the best for residents?

Should relatively inexperienced Councillors be given the right of veto over professional planning officer recommendations?

Should Planning Officers be left to make all the decisions? They probably make 95% or more right now.

Or should planning become even more granular and allow generally much more experienced Parish Councils more power to refuse applications as they will know the history and are arguably much better placed to determine how their communities should evolve.

(In my experience Parish Councillors don’t fly any flags and seem to stick around longer as it tends not to be used by ambitious budding MPs as a launch pad.)

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Thank you.


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