And I don’t mean take advantage of ‘Eat Out to Help Out‘. That ship has sailed.

I am talking about wasting an entire afternoon looking at a screen of a virtual planning committee in Brighton and Hove waiting for your turn to speak while planners, councillors and legal advisors haggle about language used to let the council off the hook.

For some it’s a circus. For others it’s a show for their residents. For residents, it is real in that it could change their lives forever. And by the way, they do not trust the system. And what do the planning officers do? They argue and offer excuses for why they could not do a site visit.

And although councillors sincerely say that they must look at each application for its own merit, they go on to say silly things like ‘we’ve probably seen the end of big gardens for big houses in cities.’ I have now requested that the councillor who said that last week and was quoted in the press be excluded from the vote every time there is an application to replace a family home with a block of flats. That’s the right thing to do. Let’s see where that ends up.

I have also never felt like taking a local authority to a judicial review to teach them a lesson like I did yesterday. Never had to. But if my affected residents will support the action, I will not hesitate to lodge the legal paperwork against my local authority. What’s the point otherwise of using public funds from Locality with support from Aecom to deliver a Housing Needs Assessment for a Neighbourhood Forum arguing that the dwelling mix in Hove Park must continue to be determined by life-stage modelling. In this modelling, in Brighton and Hove, Hove Park plays an important role in the wider market in the city. Since the city centre is dominated by smaller homes, the Hove Park Neighbourhood Area provides an option for those looking for larger homes. Councillors have now taken this option off the table meaning that residents looking for space will have to leave the city. We are already losing 360 school places this year as things stand.

And to those councillors who believe that party politics has no place on a planning committee should grow up. There is plenty of evidence that this was the case in the debates from yesterday’s ridiculous circus of a planning committee at Brighton and Hove City Council. Otherwise, what’s with a self declared Marxist saying developers are sticking up two fingers to the residents of the city. That sounds like a political statement to me. Application rejected by the way. It does look like the louder you shout the more likely you will be heard.

Now, honesty’s a big thing in local government. So why, when a planner was asked whether a controversial major application for a site known as Toads Hole Valley in Brighton and Hove was coming before committee in September, the officer said this was likely but she could not confirm. Guess what though, a document Highways England has appeared in which they are requesting (I do apologise, ‘recommending’) that ‘planning permission not be granted for a specified period’ (see Annex A, they said – further assessment required).

Annex A was actually worded differently. It says:

The application should not be determined until such time as the following matters have been addressed to the satisfaction of Highways England;

  1. The traffic modelling of the proposed highway mitigations both local and strategic road networks,
  2. The Detail Design is Agreed, and
  3. The Stage 1 Road Safety Audit is completed and all matters resolved.

Note the ‘should not be determined’ versus the ‘recommend that permission not be granted’. And we wonder why the public hates the planning system!

Finally, time to bring back proper face to face meetings and for God’s sake, let planners do site visits so they can see first hand the impact of their bewildering decisions on local communities. Enough is enough Mr Jenrick! When a fellow councillor ignores my representation at committee, I want to look them in the eye and I want to see whether they were listening or not.

Bless those colleagues at the Planning Advisory Service who recently wrote that it is essential that councils continue to run robust and legally sound processes. However alongside observing the letter of the law it is important to remember the spirit. It is not easy, but planning must continue to be transparent and fair. In Brighton and Hove right now, it does not appear to be.