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Give people a proper say in planning

Guernsey Press Comment | Published:

A JOKE. Total fiasco. Biased. Shambles.

It’s fair to say that Wednesday’s open planning meeting on a former vinery in St Sampson’s was a public relations disaster.

Since inception, the meetings have been counter-productive. They are supposed to be inclusive, giving islanders a voice in planning decisions.

Instead, they leave people feeling aggrieved, silenced, excluded and angry.

The concept was flawed from the start. Effectively, the pupils are asked to mark teacher’s homework. Non-professional deputies feebly challenge the judgement of their own senior officers.

After the open planning meeting the deputies still have to work with the professionals – and trust their advice. It is an incestuous recipe for conflict and accusations of bias inevitably follow.

The Development & Planning Authority’s approach thus far has been to bury its head in the sand. If they do not hold open planning meetings then they cannot go wrong.

But, as the controversial build at Cobo showed, such a gagging tactic can only work for so long. Eventually the public will demand a say.

There is little sign that the DPA understands how important a just, transparent and equitable planning appeals process is.

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The new president’s action plan in June, for example, condensed talk of a review of open planning meetings to a single-line footnote. There has been nothing since.

Shambolic meetings such as this week’s must convince the DPA that the system is not fit for purpose. Training deputies is not going to solve the issue, nor is a social media campaign to inform the public.

A more fundamental shift is required. One that removes the conflict of loyalties between deputies and their staff and places a panel of independent professionals in the chair.

More than that, give people a stronger voice. If enough residents object to an application why not give them the power to force an open planning meeting?

Give all parties the right to speak freely, whether they have previously objected in writing or not, and end heavy-handed rules about who can address the meeting and for how long.

People care deeply for their island and want a say in its development. The system must respect that.

Shaun Green

By Shaun Green
Editor

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