Barnet Council, in its wisdom, decided a year ago to reduce the number of planning meetings from three to two. Previously they were split by the three parliamentary constituencies but in order to save money they were reduced this down to two meetings East and West of the Borough. This has resulted in some meetings running over. To address the problem, rather than go back to three meetings, the Council has proposed that for a planning application to be referred to the committee, five people have to object rather than the current three people. The council have identified that this may save up to £40,000 a year in reduced officer and Councillors time (I thought Councillors were paid a fixed allowance irrespective of how many meetings they attended.) The problem is that with many planning applications the council informs residents of only those immediately adjacent properties meaning that often very few people know about the application.
I attended a planning meeting recently where two planning applications recommended for approval by officers were refused by the committee. This reflects the fact that most Councillors live in their local communities and are much more in touch with what is and what is not appropriate.
In 2010/11 planning application fees generated income for the Council of £1.58 million and when
One Barnet Outsourcing is implemented they are forecasting that will
rise by another £237,000 per annum. Trying to save £40,000 by reducing residents' right to speak at meetings seems both inappropriate and ill judged.
I urge every resident who has ever been affected by a planning application to write to their Councillors asking them to reconsider this stupid proposal. If this proposal goes through it will illustrate - yet again - that actually the Council is prepared to sacrifice the rights of residents all for the sake of £40,000 a year.