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Gollop: DPA return possible

Readers' Letters | Published:

IT IS with a degree of sadness and disappointment that I see media and press commentary and headlines convey the impression from a public perspective that the latest DPA open planning meeting was somewhat of a fiasco and a shambles.

Firstly, consideration should be given to the facts that a new changed format in parts was adopted with greater support, too, from the States communications team and that it was solicitor and compliance consultant Deputy Dawn Tindall’s first time as the president publicly (although she did occasionally chair part of my normal committee meetings when I was DPA president for just over three years when I had urgent medical appointments or other clashes) and the first time Alderney representative Alex Snowden, one of the youngest members of the States of Guernsey and maybe the baby of the house, worked as a panel delegate, although he has very extensive knowledge of home building and the open planning meetings for the States of Alderney as a full long-term member of their Building and Development Control Committee. And as an Alderney resident from boyhood he cannot be accused of a Guernsey western or southern or Town or northern parish bias. At one point our committee unhappily had three Town North district deputies out of five and only one from a non-Town background.

I noticed a few weeks ago that privately one or two States members and the active and well-informed Delancey Park Conservation Group politely questioned why Alex Snowden had a role and membership of a Guernsey planning authority. Well aside from our island’s extensive involvement in Alderney public affairs, bearing in mind the common tax and social security purse, he commends himself on his diligence and calm merits. Do not blame Deputy Tindall for his appointment from the States. It is my issue to own.

While I was still president after the Deputy Lester Queripel resignation (who has since returned to the sharp end), I needed to fill the fifth seat, in my view, and a majority of the committee approved informally of Alex Snowden. My own view was that a vacancy on a States committee is undesirable as we have seen and only barely constitutional. Had excellent Guernsey deputies applied I would have considered them on their merits, especially a northern parish representative, but at least 10 members are barred from applying due to our crazy constitutional rules. And I had no volunteers – a situation we saw replicated at the June meeting – hence the empty seat, and there were no rivals opposing Deputy Tindall for the presidency, too.

Hang on a minute. At question/ statement time Planning representatives are besieged with sometimes robust if not hostile questioning, the Merritt requete won most propositions with a review of the DPA now promised and there has been a loud operatic chorus of disapproval and Deputy Tindall nearly got a spoilt secret blank paper majority vote against her as the sole candidate for the leadership role, and yet no deputies were prepared to stand to sit on this important committee. They did step up to the plate recently for the Home and Economic Development vacancies despite apparent overwork . . . perhaps the job is too onerous and politically unpopular in an election year maybe?

There is a vacancy on the committee still for the early September meeting covering my birthday. As a present to myself, if no other candidates stand, I will be sorely tempted to return to the fray as an ordinary member with a more independent and empowered perspective.

The Merritt requete debate covered a lot of useful ground but suffered from the summer, Friday afternoon, end-of-session torpor and hurry. The real issue of political decision- making on a quasi-judicial planning body was not sufficiently aired or covered.

Having attended at length rival Jersey and Alderney open planning meeting formats, I can see their strengths and very much would argue that we need to free-up and liberate political decision-making and approaches at our planning deliberations. I don’t blame my able colleagues for any sense of a shambles having had a few adventurous meetings myself. It is the structure, system and culture which needs to change. We need to be more responsive to parish and legitimate public concerns, make departure for official plans and even change the powers of the non-democratically elected tribunal system. They should not act as a trumping body of re-evaluating every application without recourse to political considerations and issues. There is still a lot of work to do.

DEPUTY JOHN GOLLOP,

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Di Lihou

By Di Lihou
Editorial assistant

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