From the outset, let me be clear – I would like to stop large scale development in and around Leighton Buzzard, and see the work already started to the east and north of the town cease, and the land returned to green fields. I spoke out against these developments when applications were put before CBC. But the plans were, nonetheless, passed.
In my years as a local councillor, both in Leighton Buzzard and elsewhere, I have learned a bit about how the planning process works. I am by no means an expert, but one of the sad facts is the opportunities for local communities to object on the grounds of simply not wanting a development are long gone. There has to be a ‘planning reason’ for an application to be refused. Some of the valid reasons for objecting include:
- Inadequate parking
- Highway safety
- Traffic generation
- Noise and disturbance from use
- Contrary to local, strategic or nation planning policies
- Loss of light or privacy
- Storage of hazardous materials
- Loss or effect on trees
- Effect on listed buildings, conservation areas etc
- Layout and density of building design, and visual appearance
If one of these can be shown, there is a chance of making a valid objection – although there is no guarantee that the application will be refused.
A lot of smaller applications will be given approval by officers – they will never get as far as the Development Management Committee (at CBC) – although larger or more controversial applications will go to the committee. An application can be ‘called in’ by one of the CBC ward councillors, in which case it will go to the Development Management Committee – but only if there is a potentially valid planning reason for doing so. Officers will make a recommendation for approval or refusal, and it is for the committee to decide if there are sufficient planning grounds to refuse permission. The balance has now moved very much towards there being a presumption of consent unless there is a reason to refuse.
When refusing an application, the Development Management Committee also has to be mindful of the chances of planning permission being granted on appeal or by a planning inspector. If the decision is taken out of the local authority’s hands and permission is granted on appeal – as happened with large parts of the southern estates – the long term effect can be disastrous.
Leighton Linslade Town Council is NOT the planning authority. Although it has a planning committee, it has no power to approve or refuse permission. The planning committee of a town or parish council is advisory only – its comments will be passed to the planning authority (CBC) for consideration, but any objection must be backed by a valid planning reason.
Your local Councillors are aware of local opinion over the developments in Leighton Buzzard – and probably a lot of them agree with local opinion. Although we can express our views about these developments, the planning process is a quasi-judicial process and therefore any decision has to be based on planning law.