Back in 2015, Havant published a draft consultation on a propsed ‘supplementary planning document’, essentially an appendix to the core area plan document, which provides the rules by which developers and householders must design and construct their developments.
On our inspection, and that of numerous other expert parties, the document was found to contain many statements and instructions which were incorrect, in conflict with other legislation, or just simply outright confusing. Our group submitted an extensive response to the consultation, and I was invited to a meeting with a senior planning officer to review our concerns, and was told that the document had already been deemed to be considerably flawed, would be re-written, and our group’s participation requested during the process.
It was quite a shock to see, in the minutes of the most recent Council Meeting that the same document, somewhat shortened but still containing some interesting errors, had been fully accepted by the Council without further consultation, even to those who had responded in the first place.
While the document is still quite complex, and difficult to understand, it still contains a statement that most developments with parking must seek to make 5% of spaces reserved, and appropriately designed and laid out, for blue badge holders and disabled people. We had objected strongly to this at the time because not only is the proper place for such guidance already embedded in building regulations, but simple primary school mathematics shows that for smaller developments, such as flats, or retail outlets with smaller car parks, the developer has but to design for 19 car parking spaces, and they will have legal precedent not to include a disabled space which is otherwise required by the building regulations, and the lack of which would be subject to prosecution under the Equality Act.
In case you are asking the significance of 19 spaces – the answer is quite simple. The rules now state that 5% of spaces must be allocated for blue badge holders. However, this needs there to be more than 20 spaces, as 20 is the lowest number for which 5% is a whole number. In other words, 5% x 20 =1 whereas 5%x19 = 0.95 which is less than the threshold requirement.
As a community group, and a registered charity, trying to work within the guidelines set out by the Localism Bill, we have been seeking to work with local authorities, including both Councils and NHS Trusts, to highlight issues, and offer our unique perspective and experience in a complimentary and positive manner. We dislike immensely having to object once the public consultation is issued, because experience showed that given the money spent on development, most objections will be negated due to cost reasons alone.
It may be a surprise, but we do understand this. All we ask of any developer is that while designing a new shopping development, housing estate, or even to the Street Team working on new parking restrictions, to approach us during the design phase with the draft plans so that we can contribute to the process, saving money on a redesign if and when we highlight errors which legally require resolution OR which would render the Council open to prosecution.
The biggest problem that we face, in working to improve our local environment for everyone, as accessibility for disabled people also means better facilities for parents with pushchairs, pedestrians, cyclists on shared paths, and older people using scooters. We often hear, at public events, people complaining about many things, but when we ask if they wrote in, or emailed, during the right time, the answer is always no.
NUMBERS COUNT and it IS YOUR PROBLEM. If everybody who had a concern or objection to a planning submission, consultation or even published plan for a “Traffic Regulation Order” (TRO) which might implement new yellow lines, ban parking, or change pedestrian access, then the authorities would listen. For planning, only ten objections in writing are required to force the matter to the planning and development committee, and public can attend the meeting and request to be heard (bearing in mind that only five minutes in total are allowed for people speak FOR, or against). Worse still, that five minutes is total, thus five people speaking against would have 60 seconds each.
That being said, a large group of people against a change in policy or planning development, choosing a single spokesperson, and arranging a very large attendance at the meeting, will have an impact on the Councillors, who are, ultimately, voted for by you.
I will be writing more on this subject in the near future as to where you can look for such publications, and how to respond to them, and especially the ‘correct’ way to phrase your support or objection, as there are rules to how you phrase your objections too.
This writer would like to make it clear that while frustrated with the outcome of the policy, and the work put in, he bears no malice towards the officers involved in the development and drive to approval of the policy who were working in good faith.