More questions over planning

PUBLISHED: 13:40 21 July 2008 | UPDATED: 09:20 10 June 2010

EAST Devon District Council moves in a mysterious way its wonders to perform! Mr Jeffs's letter (Journal, July 10) is intended to be an olive branch, and dispel some myths about the planning process". Does it? Why was the public not informed three mo

EAST Devon District Council moves in a mysterious way its wonders to perform! Mr Jeffs's letter (Journal, July 10) is intended to be an olive branch, and "dispel some myths about the planning process". Does it? Why was the public not informed three months ago that the proposed "experiment" would entail reduction of newspaper advertisements and site notices? Mr Jeff's letter, couched in somewhat vague terms, appears to create more potential myths (eg "help cut out the bits of the work which have been shown to add little benefit to the new process"). Parish, town and district councillors will no doubt be commenting on the procedural changes that have suddenly landed on them, as a fait accompli, without prior consultation. I hope their views will be reported in the Journal. As for the public, the three months' delay in releasing information (triggered by readers' letters!) may increase mistrust of EDDC and foster apathy. Reassurances about future "benefit for everyone" are likely to be met with disbelief. In his last paragraph, Mr Jeffs said that some of the concerns I had raised in the preceding Journal would be "specifically reviewed". May I add two more?In order to save money by not advertising in the paper and not displaying posters, paid officer-time will be spent on "appropriateness" of individual applications. Most of the planning officers involved in the experiment are newcomers to the area - a recent turnover of planning posts has been high. They will need to seek advice, or run the risk of making mistakes. Parish/town councillors and long-standing residents could advise, if they are asked. But the experiment relies less and less on local knowledge, with more power restricted to planning officers.Not much time will be saved by not displaying site posters because each application site is still visited by an officer before he/she writes a report. Now he/she will have the added task of deciding whether a poster would be "appropriate". Are the benefits worth the financial saving, if any?My second question arises from Mr Jeffs' "So please judge by its outcomes" (of the Vanguard experiment). A foolproof judgement of the outcomes will be difficult, if not impossible. We live in abnormal times. The trial period of several months happens to coincide with a severe turmoil in banking, mortgages and the construction industry. There is no proper control period for comparison, ie new trial procedures for planning applications during a period of economic stability. EDDC's current Vanguard experiment could be compared to running a clinical trial on indigestion pills during a widespread cholera epidemic. Who could judge, without proper controls, how effective such pills would be? Who would authorise their manufacture and distribution, who would prescribe them, and who would buy them? (Dr) Anita Jennings,Northview Road,Budleigh Salterton

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