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Gary

Local democracy at its very best!!!

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Gary,

It sounds like you are believing the Jim Sullivan version of events in the comments. There are limited reasons for council committees to make decisions in part 2 of the agenda where public and press are excluded. I realise you know this already but for others, they are laid out in Schedule 12A of the 1972 Local Government Act (as amended) (and copied into the council constitution). The only one which seems relevant in this case is exemption5 "Information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings."

The council never says which exemption it is using and in this case if it is number 5 it would be foolish to do so since merely stating so would convince the appellant, the appeal is still active at this point, to be able to argue that the defence believes its own case is flawed. Essentially that seems to be the case but there is no evidence to prove it and the legal privilege means that the council do not have to disclose the advice they have been given.

Planning is not democratic, it is a legal process and the Development Management Committee is not governed in the same way as other Committees. Creating the Local Plan should be democratic, and done by the whole council not by the Development Management Committee, but dealing with planning applications is a quasi-judicial process. If done wrongly the application done wrong is open to judicial review as well as appeal. The calling in of applications by the Secretary of State is only done for cases which may set a new precedent or have a national or regional significance or consequence as a planning decision. This application meets none of those requirements.

Effectively Russ Bowden has told you that the decision was made for them by a QC. It may be important in my view that costs at a planning enquiry are I think only awarded if someone acts unreasonably which suggests the QC believes that the appellants believe they have a case that the council acted unreasonably. The time window for judicial review has, I think, passed. Given that they were trying to appease the current public uproar about green belt it may well be the case that they did act unreasonably in planning law terms. WBC sometimes does!

 

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On 6/27/2019 at 2:36 PM, Confused52 said:

Gary,

It sounds like you are believing the Jim Sullivan version of events in the comments. There are limited reasons for council committees to make decisions in part 2 of the agenda where public and press are excluded. I realise you know this already but for others, they are laid out in Schedule 12A of the 1972 Local Government Act (as amended) (and copied into the council constitution). The only one which seems relevant in this case is exemption5 "Information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings."

The council never says which exemption it is using and in this case if it is number 5 it would be foolish to do so since merely stating so would convince the appellant, the appeal is still active at this point, to be able to argue that the defence believes its own case is flawed. Essentially that seems to be the case but there is no evidence to prove it and the legal privilege means that the council do not have to disclose the advice they have been given.

Planning is not democratic, it is a legal process and the Development Management Committee is not governed in the same way as other Committees. Creating the Local Plan should be democratic, and done by the whole council not by the Development Management Committee, but dealing with planning applications is a quasi-judicial process. If done wrongly the application done wrong is open to judicial review as well as appeal. The calling in of applications by the Secretary of State is only done for cases which may set a new precedent or have a national or regional significance or consequence as a planning decision. This application meets none of those requirements.

Effectively Russ Bowden has told you that the decision was made for them by a QC. It may be important in my view that costs at a planning enquiry are I think only awarded if someone acts unreasonably which suggests the QC believes that the appellants believe they have a case that the council acted unreasonably. The time window for judicial review has, I think, passed. Given that they were trying to appease the current public uproar about green belt it may well be the case that they did act unreasonably in planning law terms. WBC sometimes does!

 

I'm not believing anyone's version of events. I have no issue with decisions being made in part 2 if they have to be done for legal reasons - the issue I have is the poor communication AFTER the event, which then fans the flames of conspiracy theories. The decision should have been properly communicated with valid reasons. RE a call in - surely allowing the Stobart development will set a precedent for major development on Green Belt land in the south of the borough?

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1 hour ago, Gary said:

I'm not believing anyone's version of events. I have no issue with decisions being made in part 2 if they have to be done for legal reasons - the issue I have is the poor communication AFTER the event, which then fans the flames of conspiracy theories. The decision should have been properly communicated with valid reasons. RE a call in - surely allowing the Stobart development will set a precedent for major development on Green Belt land in the south of the borough?

The setting of a precedent would need to be national in scope according to conversations I have had with the relevant team in Birmingham about other matters. I fear this is not a new precedent of that significance. Indeed I suspect that that the original Stobart application that was constructed is a precedent for the one under appeal if you are looking at a local precedent. However local matters are decided locally!

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On 6/30/2019 at 11:13 AM, Confused52 said:

The setting of a precedent would need to be national in scope according to conversations I have had with the relevant team in Birmingham about other matters. I fear this is not a new precedent of that significance. Indeed I suspect that that the original Stobart application that was constructed is a precedent for the one under appeal if you are looking at a local precedent. However local matters are decided locally!

It wont be - it will be decided by a Government inspector!

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It will now it has been appealed as you say. The point I was making was that the rules for call in by the Secretary of State would imply that it should not have been called in earlier. For clarity an appeal can only be made by the applicant but a request for call in can be made by others, such as a Parish council in the south. However the Government department only recommend call-in in a limited number of cases and the request must be made before the decision has been made by a local authority.

The decision in the Stobart case, now by a Government Inspector, may however turn out to be a disappointment to you since the existing site was also decided by a Government Inspector in a similar location and was allowed. The reasons given in the Inspector's report are largely applicable to the new application and public opinion is not a material concern.

Decisions by an Inspector on appeal are part of the local planning system because they are not made in the national interest but the Inspector is just resolving a local dispute. Only called-in decisions are made based on national requirements. Government inspectors are not National Government imposing their will rather they a shared arbitration service to assist local government paid for by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The kind of roughshod behaviour to which you allude can happen in Warrington if the council hold out on building by the Homes and Communities Agency on New Town owned land. That is because the HCA are the legal successors to the New Town and can in extremis give themselves planning permission with the agreement of the Secretary of State should the local authority refuse to give it.

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The Development Control Committee have now approved the second application. The have to wait three weeks for the National Case Unit in Birmingham to decide whether to advise the Secretary of State to allow or refuse the approval on Green Belt Land. The NCU are civil servants not Planning Inspectors. The parishes in South Warrington have six weeks after that to decide if they want to waste public money on both sides for a judicial review application, which is unlikely to be granted if the Secretary of State consents.

Then, of course we can expect Stobart to withdraw their appeal and save WBC having to pay costs when they lose, which their brief has pretty clearly told them they are going to.

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What did you make of the fact that one of the councillors voting in favour didn't even know where the site was and that it wasn't brownfield?

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Full report including live video stream can be viewed here so everyuone can seen local democracy in action

https://www.warrington-worldwide.co.uk/2019/07/24/eddie-stobart-wins-planning-approval-for-green-belt-plan/

Our future is in their hands! Hopefully the Secretary of State will intervene and ensure it gets a fair hearing. In 40 years of reporting I have never seen a major planning application rejected and then be re-submitted and approved by the same committee - I use the word "same" loosely as the make-up of the committee has changed considerably in the space of eight months - which again is unusual.

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1 hour ago, grey_man said:

What did you make of the fact that one of the councillors voting in favour didn't even know where the site was and that it wasn't brownfield?

Truly remarkable!

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3 hours ago, grey_man said:

What did you make of the fact that one of the councillors voting in favour didn't even know where the site was and that it wasn't brownfield?

Where was that in the video time line please grey_man or Gary?

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Thanks grey_man. The sound level was low but he seemed to ask if it was the same area as used by Greenalls. His colleagues shut him down so it was clearly a stupid question. To be honest such things happen all the time and it is clear that councillors hadn't read reports on most of the applications to which I have objected in the past. The report was actually much more balance that many I have read too.Those that think it is unusual and unfair need to get out more. Reports elsewhere appear to be tainted with bias so I was hoping the video would help but it didn't very much.

The way in which they made the decision is probably not really open for challenge. based on what I saw in the video. I could not see any point at which the law was flouted or improper instructions given. It just seemed as unreasonable as every other planning meeting I have been to.

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32 minutes ago, Confused52 said:

Thanks grey_man. The sound level was low but he seemed to ask if it was the same area as used by Greenalls. His colleagues shut him down so it was clearly a stupid question. To be honest such things happen all the time and it is clear that councillors hadn't read reports on most of the applications to which I have objected in the past. The report was actually much more balance that many I have read too.Those that think it is unusual and unfair need to get out more. Reports elsewhere appear to be tainted with bias so I was hoping the video would help but it didn't very much.

The way in which they made the decision is probably not really open for challenge. based on what I saw in the video. I could not see any point at which the law was flouted or improper instructions given. It just seemed as unreasonable as every other planning meeting I have been to.

OK. I need to bow to your greater knowledge and experience of these things. I just found it unbelievable that just before the vote, the councillor seconding the motion to approve admitted in front of everybody that he didn't know where the site was and maybe hadn't even picked up it was on the green belt. Apart from the stupidity of the question itself, there's the stupidity of asking it in that forum. 

There's some additional context to this provided by Ryan Bate's comments. Obviously he was there so heard the comment more clearly. There was also the predictably idiotic comment from Peter Carey (I believe) about it being the South's 'turn' as if that either matters or helps to address the endless to and fro in the town on this specific issue and the more general issue underlying it. The only thing I'd say is it's a dead giveaway about the mindset of this particular councillor and probably many others.

It seems pretty obvious that one of the things in favour of the Local Plan and this application from their point of view is where things like this are happening. Russ Bowden's never going to get support from the South of Warrington for this plan if his own councillors keep letting the cat out of the bag in this way. 

If I was being conspiratorial I would also wonder whether they see it as a chance to change the electoral makeup of the wards. May not be gerrymandering as such, but it might be a consideration. 

Finally, the council needs to buy some microphones. Ideally they should have created a new space for these things at the new offices but for some reason haven't.  

 

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Interesting, the reality is that the New Town plan called for development in the South which has been successfully avoided for years. The Liberal Democrats created new Green Belt, not all of which met the requirements for Green Belt land and approved it used a flawed process. To be clear that does not apply to the area under consideration in the current application which appears to date back to the Cheshire County Structure Plan of 1986 I think it was. Putting off any development has been successful up to now but the truth is there is little choice on where to build next. If any one can see where the development should be in North Warrington apart from Peel Hall they are doing better than I am. Everywhere else destroys the gaps between settlements. The New Town designated area is virtually covered in the North and it is that area which cannot be Green Belt. That simple truth is not present in the South. It is not a mindset issue that afflicts Labour so much as an unavoidable truth which the opposition have not come to terms with.

I doubt that anyone expects the support of folk in South Warrington, history shows that there will be none. On you last point they only just finished gerrymandering before the last all out election. The relative lack of housing growth over the last four years will mean that a further imbalance beyond that which was assumed to be correcting in Chapelford and Great Sankey will not be large enough to justify a further electoral review until at least some wards are under or over represented by a margin of 20% or so, that seems a way off yet!

 

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It's clear that the development of Peel Hall would be a terrible idea. As for the South, development seems inevitable so my fear would be that they create somewhere crap, which seems far more likely than not. Even if it were a true Garden City as they originally tried to sell the idea, there are many problems with that as a concept. Instead I think what they're looking at is Birchwood including the dreaded 'centre'. I can't see it all decreasing reliance on cars either. 

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WBC do not have the vision or continuity to do anything of scale. I suspect your fears are correct and the Garden City will be as much a Garden City as Chapelford is an Urban Village. Worst of all is that they do not get what has been known for decades that you have to put in Public Transport from the start and subsidise it until that is no longer required. You can't expect people to move in using cars and change to less convenient buses later.

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I see Judith Wheeler is now complaining of coming under pressure from officers to approve the project. The council has got itself into a huge mess with this, whatever else is involved. 

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I know Steven Broomhead has already had a go at her publicly for saying what she said. I'm sure he'll follow it up with the same level of criticism for Brian Maher for admitting he had absolutely no idea about the most basic detail of the massive project he was voting in favour of. 😈 
 

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Grey_man, I have been looking at the comments on the Guardian site. I do not know if you contribute there using another name but I am really concerned that the level of debate and fury is approaching ridiculous levels. The most vociferous commentators seem to believe that a Canute like approach is what should be followed. It shows an utter contempt for government and the rule of law at times. What is your opinion, presumably you can seen more clearly from further down the M6?

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I actually still have interests in Warrington otherwise I'd keep my nose out. There's a feedback loop in comment sections sometimes that leads to a downward spiral. The personal abuse is unnecessary and I'm not sure why it's tolerated. They should ban a couple of obvious trolls. I then think people who are perhaps more reasoned end up being part of a melee so any valid points they make just seem to be part of the general racket. Then there's the underlying nonsense about 'brown envelopes' when it comes to councillors. 

Having said all of that, the council really doesn't help itself. A councillor turning up to vote on the most controversial planning decision in years without even knowing where it is? Then senior people in the council clam up about that while issuing lengthy statements about another councillor expressing her unease at how the meeting had been handled? That just plays into the narrative. They have a habit of trying to control information when they shouldn't and instead generate mistrust and misinformation. They can't deal with issues like Redwood, the Local Plan, their investments and the costs of the new offices in the way they have without expecting a backlash. 

As it happens I also think that developers have too much say in council decisions. I have very little time for Steven Broomhead. I know his sort. I think he's the main source of this influence and I suspect he's a little too easily impressed with genuine fat cats at organisations like Peel. If he's taking Judith Wheeler to task, he should double up on Brian Maher. 

Andy Farrall is another dubious character. He's an obvious philistine and is only interested in a narrow range of objectives. I know he's supposed to be leaving the council although that is dragging on. It will be interesting to see if he pitches up anywhere after leaving.  

But I think Russ Bowden seems like a decent guy doing the best he can in difficult circumstances which is probably true for most of the people in the council. I don't agree with all they do, especially with the risks they are taking on behalf of the town in the property market, but the main thing is they need to just be more straightforward about things and stop trying to control them quite so much. That's obviously not working. Just my opinion.   

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2 hours ago, grey_man said:

Then there's the underlying nonsense about 'brown envelopes' when it comes to councillors. 

So what colour are they? :roll:

(sorry could not resist temptation with that statement.)

As you say their attitude when it comes to information does not do them any favours and invites "brown envelope" comments. (or whatever colour they are) 🕵️‍♀️ :D

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2 hours ago, grey_man said:

I actually still have interests in Warrington otherwise I'd keep my nose out. There's a feedback loop in comment sections sometimes that leads to a downward spiral. The personal abuse is unnecessary and I'm not sure why it's tolerated. They should ban a couple of obvious trolls. I then think people who are perhaps more reasoned end up being part of a melee so any valid points they make just seem to be part of the general racket. Then there's the underlying nonsense about 'brown envelopes' when it comes to councillors. 

Having said all of that, the council really doesn't help itself. A councillor turning up to vote on the most controversial planning decision in years without even knowing where it is? Then senior people in the council clam up about that while issuing lengthy statements about another councillor expressing her unease at how the meeting had been handled? That just plays into the narrative. They have a habit of trying to control information when they shouldn't and instead generate mistrust and misinformation. They can't deal with issues like Redwood, the Local Plan, their investments and the costs of the new offices in the way they have without expecting a backlash. 

As it happens I also think that developers have too much say in council decisions. I have very little time for Steven Broomhead. I know his sort. I think he's the main source of this influence and I suspect he's a little too easily impressed with genuine fat cats at organisations like Peel. If he's taking Judith Wheeler to task, he should double up on Brian Maher. 

Andy Farrall is another dubious character. He's an obvious philistine and is only interested in a narrow range of objectives. I know he's supposed to be leaving the council although that is dragging on. It will be interesting to see if he pitches up anywhere after leaving.  

But I think Russ Bowden seems like a decent guy doing the best he can in difficult circumstances which is probably true for most of the people in the council. I don't agree with all they do, especially with the risks they are taking on behalf of the town in the property market, but the main thing is they need to just be more straightforward about things and stop trying to control them quite so much. That's obviously not working. Just my opinion.   

I agree with almost all of what you say, and it does help to have a distance. I would only disagree about Brian Maher, simply because you cannot expect Councillors to be the sharpest tools in the box given the way they are selected. It is also true that we can all have off days and weeks and I don't have enough to say the way he behaved is what he always does and hence condemn it more strongly. I particularly agree with the penultimate paragraph and the comments on the property market which they just don't understand. I would only point out that at least in the recent purchases they have left another council with the problem of paying the non-retained portion of Business Rates on empty properties in those parks. Maybe Russ did listen to something he was told, but not much.

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19 minutes ago, Confused52 said:

I agree with almost all of what you say, and it does help to have a distance. I would only disagree about Brian Maher, simply because you cannot expect Councillors to be the sharpest tools in the box given the way they are selected. It is also true that we can all have off days and weeks and I don't have enough to say the way he behaved is what he always does and hence condemn it more strongly. I particularly agree with the penultimate paragraph and the comments on the property market which they just don't understand. I would only point out that at least in the recent purchases they have left another council with the problem of paying the non-retained portion of Business Rates on empty properties in those parks. Maybe Russ did listen to something he was told, but not much.

There's an interesting contrast with the local council here who have also just built themselves a new office. The cost of that has always been in the public domain so they've dealt with that part. They haven't dug a hole for themselves on that score.  But it has been a problem in other regards. The construction was beset with hold ups. But the main issue is they didn't have a proper plan for the old offices which are now empty, rotting and sucking up money a couple of hundred yards away. Obviously this wasn't part of the business case so that's gone out of the window.

They're not the only council to have found themselves in that position. Such behaviour would be a huge problem for a private sector organisation. It could even see them face financial problems. Heads would likely roll. 

I can't comment on the business case for Broomhead Towers because WBC is pulling its usual trick of keeping people in the dark then whinging about the speculation. 

Maybe I shouldn't expect quite so much from councillors, but again you know more of them than I do. I for one couldn't bear to work as a councillor.  

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