Friday, 1 April 2011
Democracy Costs Barnet Ratepayers £137,343
Reading today's batch of delegated powers reports there is one that really worries me. It relates to a planning application to extend the Edgwarebury Cemetery that was dealt with back in 2009. According to the report at the time officers recommended that the application be passed but councillors voted for the application to be refused. The applicant took Barnet to appeal and won. They have now lodged a claim for costs of £137,343. Barnet are recommending paying out £82,500 immediately to minimise interest charges while they haggle about the balance. Now this is the hard part for me. Part of me thinks that those councillors who refused the application have cost us a packet by ignoring officers advice. However part of me also thinks that councillors were simply reflecting local residents' concern about an infringement of the green belt. It is a real dilemma and calls into question what role local people should have in the planning process. This is something very close to my heart. What really worries me is that this will now make councillors even more reluctant to disagree with officers and sometimes that is a really important stance they should take. I also worry that with reforms of the planning system coming soon it will make it even harder for communities to get their views heard when controversial schemes are considered. I think this is a topic that really needs further debate. Comments please.