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M


ore local residents attend Planning than any other council meeting.


They may want to extend their home, build on


their garden, change the use of their business premises. On the other hand they may strongly object to an application that has an impact on their home or on the local environment. When I first became a member of the Planning


Committee it was not a popular committee to be on - huge amounts of reading, plans to look at and difficult, unpopular decisions to take. I was a very junior member and had no choice. There is a lot of reading, there are difficult decisions but I have always found it very interesting because planning plays a key role in protecting our environment, in maintaining the character of the different parts of our area and in making provision for the needs of the community. There is a wide range of matters from huge proposals like the current Leavesden plans, meeting local housing need, protecting historic buildings, to small domestic extensions. The Planning Committee only determines about 10% of applications, the rest are dealt with by planning officers. Some people think that decisions are made on


a referendum basis. This is not the case. Great attention is paid to all representations received and members of the committee fully understand how strongly people feel about certain issues but sometimes objectors dwell on matters that while


very important to them, are not „planning considerations‟ according to policy, law and regulation or previous decisions on the same site. Permissions are sometimes given in the face of local hostility because there are no valid planning grounds to refuse them. Refusals are given when no objections have been made because planning requirements are not met. These decisions are often uncomfortable for


members of the Committee who do not wish to upset local residents but know that policy, law and regulation must be respected. A failure to do so often means that an appeal is successful, mitigating conditions are lost and large costs incurred at appeal, all of which are predictable if there are no sound planning grounds for a refusal. Members of the public are very welcome at


planning meetings. Members listen very carefully to what they say – it is three minutes for one person for and one person against an application. If you make representations on a planning matter, please do not feel that the more you write the more convincing it will be. A short, clear letter, focussing on the main points will be most effective. Similarly if you speak at a planning meeting do


concentrate on a few main points. Some people speak very fast so they can say more in the time allowed with the result that their main points are sometimes lost.


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