Following on from the relief of local residents in Queen Victoria Road that the former Sant Elli Residential Home has been purchased by a religious organisation and is no longer available to be turned into accommodation for 18 ex-offenders, Nia Griffith MP has called for changes in planning procedures to ensure that residents get a voice.
Explaining why she wants changes to the system Nia said,
“I am grateful to the Council planning department for responding to our concerns by pausing the process, and not just issuing a Certificate of Lawfulness, which we were told was all that was required for the hostel plans to go ahead.
But what local people really want is a change in the system so that they can be sure that any similar plans in the future will have to involve proper consultation with the public, and the involvement of elected councillors.
This could be done by the Planning Department and the Councillors agreeing that, even though the law may only require the completion of formalities with planning officers, there would be a protocol requiring issues like this to be brought to the attention of Councillors and the public. This could even be part of broader review into what can be done by what is called “permitted development” that is with simple approval from the officers and what has to come before the planning committee. The current system means that local residents (and even some local councillors) feel that it can be too easy for things to get approval without them even knowing what is happening, and with no chance to express their views.
Planning law is complex, and I am not trying to tell officers how to do their job. I am asking the planning committee and /or the scrutiny committee to discuss with officers how to give a greater voice to local people and their elected representatives.”