Tuesday, 12 June 2012

What price democracy in Barnet - £40,000 a year?

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.


  1. Rare to be completely disappointed by your blog posts but I am rather staggered that you have taken the 'saving' at face value (especially as the Council makes no attempt to show their workings).

    The issue of 3 or 5 can be worked around, and I think this will backfire on the Council by creating a backlash, but it is more worrying to have a paper based on such quack figures.

    Why do they think the move from 5 to 3 will see a drop in 100 a year? Surely many people, knowing the limit is now 5, will get two neighbours to ask to speak even if they don't actually speak.

    Why do they think that it costs £400 for one single application to go to Committee? The planning application still need to be considered. If it is contentious there will be lots of meetings and emails and it can be argued the fixed public meeting with it's procedures is more efficient than a paid Officer spending hours dealing with lawyers and waffle.

  2. In order that people know about planning applications near them it is possible to sign up for email alerts. It is slightly stupid in that you get sent the email and then it is 5 days before the papers go live but at least one knows what is coming (it is evidently too much to ask to be told once the papers are available) Here is the link

    Planning Alerts

    1. You are correct, it's wny this will backfire as people will 'panic' and say they will speak even if they don't want to #barmybarnet

  3. I must try harder when I write my blog
    I must try harder when I write my blog
    I must try harder when I write my blog
    I must try harder when I write my blog
    I am very sorry!
    However I had assumed that no one in Barnet believes any figures produced by the council any more, but as they say, assume made an ass of you and me. However on a key point, I am not sure it is always possible to get 5 people to object especially when a planning application may only affect two or three neighbours. It is those inconsiderate individual developments that will get nodded through by officers if these new rules are implemented.