Last night I made a few somewhat strong responses to some comments on Twitter. I have decided, as a result of that, to outline how planning works and my view about how the Supermarket survey I am conducting in Whittlesey North Division (the area I represent as a County Councillor) fits into the process.
The first part of this is to put the issue of predisposition and predetermination out into the ether.
Predisposition with regards to planning, means to go into a planning meeting, minded to vote one way but remaining open-minded. This is allowable, and quite rightly so - it is virtually impossible to go into a meeting, having read the planning papers, read a few comments on-line and also having visited the site in question, without having a voice in the back of your mind that says "I'm not sure about that" or "that looks OK".
What a committee member is not allowed to do is be predetermined. That is to go into the planning committee with your mind already made up and having decided that, whatever happens, you will only vote one way. Being blunt, it is a daft position to put yourself in. Planning is an evidence based process - often last minute changes are made, or evidence emerges during the planning committee - either from debate, from presentations or from questioning presenters that influences your decision.
It is also true that presenters often raise issues that cannot be taken into account by the committee and part of the role of the members is to filter those out; examples include questioning the character of an applicant, or because of a link to a party political campaign; planning decisions have to be made in accordance with local and National planning policies.
So how does this fit into the current supermarket applications in Whittlesey? Well, I am conducting a survey because I wanted to know the views of the people of Whittlesey North Division (who I am elected to serve) about the proposed supermarkets, and I have said I will publish the results of that survey. Of course that survey has to inform my thinking. But although I have published some of the interim results in order to stimulate debate- there is loads of work to do on it yet- such as getting an understanding of what are and aren't planning issues out of the many things that are raised- and giving weight to those issues. There are also still lots of unanswered questions about all of the applications that the survey will not bring out, such as; whether any of them will have an unacceptable impact on the A605; what access is best; whether any of the applications will have a disproportionate impact on the Town Centre - and our Town Centre is coming out as the biggest Whittlesey issue in the survey. I also have no idea what changes and improvements are likely to be made to the various planning applications between now and 29th August and I am still waiting to see the outcome of the report that was commissioned after the last meeting, nor am I aware of what the officer response will be.
The point of writing this is to highlight that there is still a huge amount of water to flow under the bridge between now and 29th August and that everyone on that planning committee needs to remain open minded; it is how I approach every application and it is how I am approaching the supermarkets decisions.
Please, please keep submitting the responses to my survey. They are hugely informative and helpful.
AS I have done previously on contentious planning applications. I will use my blog to publish the reasons and thinking behind how I vote on 29th August