About these ads
Posted by: John Brace | July 24, 2014

After 1 objection, Labour councillor speaks in favour of filming; Planning Inspector Griffiths rules it is allowed


After 1 objection, Labour councillor speaks in favour of filming; Planning Inspector Griffiths rules it is allowed

                           

Yesterday marked a first for me as I attended my first planning appeal hearing. It was an informal hearing involving an appeal to a planning application decided by a Wirral Council planning officer just before Christmas last year.

The application was for ten houses in the greenbelt near Storeton Woods, where there are currently stables and a paddock. When the Wirral Council planning officer (the decision was made by Mrs C Parker) made their decision last year to refuse the application, there had been twenty-two people in favour of the application and thirty-five against and you can view the original documentation surrounding the planning application on Wirral Council’s website.

Wirral Council refused the application for three reasons, the first being it was considered to be inappropriate development in the greenbelt, on highway safety grounds and because the applicant didn’t submit enough information to determine the effect on trees covered by a tree preservation order.

Usually planning appeals don’t result in hearings and are just decided on the papers submitted by each side. The hearing was held in Committee Room 2 at Wallasey Town Hall, followed by a site visit after which the planning inspector Paul Griffiths would give his decision.

Almost a year ago, when the controversy over bloggers filming public meetings was at its height, the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP issued new guidance about the filming of planning appeal hearings. In fact in the press release that I link to there is a specific mention of Wirral Council’s refusal to allow me film a Planning Committee meeting in July 2013 on “health and safety” grounds as covered by the Liverpool Echo. The guidance issued then was that filming at planning appeal hearings should be allowed and a quote from the press release was “Ministers hope this will open up a previously mysterious and rarely seen side of the planning process.”

So I brought along my video camera and tripod to film the planning appeal hearing. What was interesting was near the start of the hearing there was at the start an objection to my filming of the hearing.

Above is video of an informal planning appeal hearing against a refusal of planning permission by Wirral Council (23rd July 2014)

As those who are regular readers of my blog will know, there have been problems in the past when objections have been made by those present to me filming public meetings (even in the recent past) when such a decision has been in the hands of Wirral Council politicians who haven’t always been on the side of openness and transparency.

I include below a transcript of the part of the meeting where the filming issue was discussed which starts seventeen seconds in to the clip above. For information, Matthews and Goodman Limited were the agents to the planning application that was being appealed and were there at the hearing to represent the appellant (Ms Lin Smith of Woodend Cottage, Marsh Lane, Wirral).

PLANNING INSPECTOR (PAUL GRIFFITHS)
Can I ask if there are any members of the press present?

JOHN BRACE
Behind you.

PLANNING INSPECTOR (PAUL GRIFFITHS)
Right, OK. You’ll need to give me your name and address on a separate piece of paper, if that’s alright? Then you get a copy of the decision directly from the Inspectorate.

JOHN BRACE
I’ve put our names on the attendance sheet, do you want to…

PLANNING INSPECTOR (PAUL GRIFFITHS)
If you just mark it, then on the attendance list, when it comes back I’ll deal with that.

NEIL CULKIN (OF MATTHEWS & GOODMAN LTD)
Sir, can I ask what press they are representing and why because we’ve received an objection from the applicant to filming events today?

PLANNING INSPECTOR (PAUL GRIFFITHS)
Hmm, hmm.

JOHN BRACE
Sorry could you speak up, I didn’t quite hear it?

PLANNING INSPECTOR (PAUL GRIFFITHS)
OK, what newspaper are you here representing?

JOHN BRACE
I don’t represent a newspaper.

PLANNING INSPECTOR (PAUL GRIFFITHS)
Right.

JOHN BRACE
I write a blog about Wirral Council and I also film at Planning Committee meetings.

PLANNING INSPECTOR (PAUL GRIFFITHS)
OK.

NEIL CULKIN (OF MATTHEWS & GOODMAN LTD)
As I said to, through you Sir, as previously indicated the applicant has objected to the events being filmed.

PLANNING INSPECTOR (PAUL GRIFFITHS)
Why is that, is there a particular problem with that?

NEIL CULKIN (OF MATTHEWS & GOODMAN LTD)
Errm, I’m just acting on instructions.

PLANNING INSPECTOR (PAUL GRIFFITHS)
Hmm, OK.

COUNCILLOR JERRY WILLIAMS (WIRRAL COUNCIL)
Could I make a comment?

PLANNING INSPECTOR (PAUL GRIFFITHS)
Well no, I don’t want to get drawn into a debate about whether or not the hearing should be filmed.

COUNCILLOR JERRY WILLIAMS (WIRRAL COUNCIL)
I’m the elected Member for Bebington, sorry I’m the elected Member for Bebington.

PLANNING INSPECTOR (PAUL GRIFFITHS)
OK.

COUNCILLOR JERRY WILLIAMS (WIRRAL COUNCIL)
I want to comment on that.

PLANNING INSPECTOR (PAUL GRIFFITHS)
Well what did you want to say?

COUNCILLOR JERRY WILLIAMS (WIRRAL COUNCIL)
Just to make a comment, this gentleman records Council meetings, he records Council meeting and he comes in. There’s no side to the gentleman, he does a very good job, he records and he comes to all Council meetings to actually witness how the Council operates, so there’s no problem with it whatsoever.

PLANNING INSPECTOR (PAUL GRIFFITHS)
Well I mean, I think from my point of view, as an inspector, we are, we’ve all, generally in the past been left to our discretion, whether we allow events to be filmed or to be recorded in any other way, tape recording or people taking verbatim notes.

We’re under instructions that you know in the interests of openness that we’re not supposed to stop it. So.

NEIL CULKIN (OF MATTHEWS & GOODMAN LTD)
In light of the comments received from Councillor Williams, the applicant has no objection to events being filmed and what goes on.

PLANNING INSPECTOR (PAUL GRIFFITHS)
Well I’m quite content with it, it’s not the first time I’ve been filmed and I’m just glad it’s behind me.

(laughter)

You can read what the planning inspector’s decision was and why he made it in EXCLUSIVE: Planning Inspector Griffiths refuses appeal for 10 houses in greenbelt near Storeton Woods.

If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.

About these ads

Responses

  1. Well done John! Persistence, openness and fair play wins in the end. Filming is important.

    Like

  2. G’day John

    A Labor Councillor wanting to be open, honest and transparent!!!!

    I bet he’s not in the cabinet and never will be with a performance like that.

    Ooroo

    James

    Like

    • No he’s not in the Cabinet.

      Like

  3. G’day John

    They have dumped the auditor that Burgess courted and feted at The Improvement Board Public Meeting.

    I wonder what his report on it all says?

    Ooroo

    James

    Like

    • Are you referring to Mike Thomas of Grant Thornton (previously district auditor at the Audit Commission)?

      I thought the investigation into BIG/ISUS was done by the forensic investigations part of Grant Thornton which is separate to the part that audits Wirral Council?

      Like

      • No Mate

        Garym Lambert.

        Ooroo

        James

        Ps Weren’t you paying attention at the Improvement Board Public Meeting.

        Only joking!

        Mike Thomas just appears to be part of the (NEW) furniture and as useful.

        I worked with him at the Audit Commission.

        Like

        • Yeah, Garym leaves today from what I remember.

          However I do remember the Council’s £16000/month Head of IT giving a report to a Council committee meeting after his contract had ended, so Wirral Council shouldn’t give that as a reason why former officers can’t do that. I think the worry is that at that point they’re “free agents” and can say what they like without there being consequences to their employment and working environment!

          Like

          • G’day John

            I bet he won’t be back.

            He knows too much.

            He talked to “Highbrow” quite often.

            Ooroo

            James

            Like

            • A (now retired) committee services officer whose name I won’t mention said once that I “knew too much”. :)

              However, as Garym has left, will his post be filled (whether through an internal or external appointment)? As they’ve got to find five hundred over the next few months to say goodbye to, I think they’ll just keep the post vacant for now and therefore have the flexibility to redeploy someone or delete it altogether at some point to save money. They’ll use the logic that counter fraud is a back office, not customer facing function.

              However counter fraud and internal audit are essential at making sure Wirral Council doesn’t do very risky things. You only have to look at how much they lost in the nursing home fraud to see how just preventing a fraud of that type would pay for someone’s salary (and overheads) for the year.

              Like

  4. What was the result of the application?

    Like

    • I don’t know what the result was as I just went to the hearing and didn’t go on the site visit later in the afternoon when the decision was announced (starting at 2.30pm). The Planning Inspector did say they’d email me a copy of the decision when it’s available but you’d have to ask someone who was there at the site visit if you want to know before I’m emailed.

      At the end of the hearing conditions were agreed that would be imposed if the planning inspector approved the application. However it was unclear at that point which way he would decide.

      Like

    • I’ve written about what the result was of the appeal in a later blog post EXCLUSIVE: Planning Inspector Griffiths refuses appeal for 10 houses in greenbelt near Storeton Woods.

      Like

  5. […] an update to a story about an informal planning appeal hearing held at Wallasey Town Hall last week the Planning Inspectorate have made their decision to refuse the appeal. The site is currently a […]

    Like

  6. Hi john congratulations on the filming issue well done. In the early 1980 a group was formed “Freinds of Storeton woods” of which I was a part raised a large amount of money to purchase the woods on behalf of the residents & our funds were matched by the woodland trust & the thought was that it would be for the benefit of wirral residents forever. I am glad that the planning application was refused as it would have been a blot on the landscape.

    Like

    • Thanks for your insight into this. The issue that it would be a blog on the landscape was also brought up by residents and councillors during the planning appeal hearing.

      I lived not too far away from Storeton Woods when growing up and used to cycle there. It’s a very pleasant part of the Wirral and well used by both people walking their dogs, families and just people enjoying a pleasant walk in the countryside.

      I too am pleased the planning appeal was refused, as the impression people got at the hearing was that the planning inspector was going to overturn Wirral Council’s decision and rule in favour of development. Whereas his decision shows he did disagree with the highway safety reason given by Wirral Council, the issue of protected trees (if I remember correctly all the trees on the site were covered by a tree preservation order) and housing in the greenbelt not being “very special circumstances” to develop the greenbelt were both reasons it had been originally refused on that he did agree with.

      I hope the developers leave it there and don’t appeal the decision to the High Court.

      Like


Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,116 other followers

%d bloggers like this: