Reprieve for Thornbury planning meetings
The new leader of South Gloucestershire Council, has decided to halt controversial changes to the planning process that would have seen Thornbury stop hosting meetings.
Toby Savage, who is also the new Conservative leader on the council made the decision just days after taking over from Matthew Riddle.
The local authority was due to vote on proposals that would mean an end to meetings and appeals regarding planning applications in Thornbury. Instead these would only have taken place in Kingswood. After the closure of the council offices in Thornbury, meetings have been held in Turnberries community centre.
The ruling Conservatives had proposed a single committee for the whole authority area, instead of the two development control committees for the East and West which exist now. They had said that changes to the system were long overdue.
Mr Savage said: “Fresh leadership provides a fresh opportunity to review these proposals and engage with opposition councillors in a spirit of openness and cooperation. We do need to make changes to a local system that hasn’t changed with the times. I don’t believe the existing set-up that the Council has historically opted for is serving the best interests of residents and the communities in which they live and work.”
Leader of South Gloucestershire Lib Dems, Claire Young said; “I welcome this change of tack from the new Tory leader. Residents and opposition leaders were given no warning of these proposed sweeping changes before last week, and it looked as if the Conservatives were planning to push them through without cross-party consultation. I welcome Cllr Savage’s apology for the way this was mishandled and look forward to working with him in a constructive way to improve these proposals before they are brought back to Council in July.”
“In particular, I would call upon Councillor Savage to take this opportunity to rethink the way residents are being cut out of the planning process by these Conservative proposals. We feel the move to ban members of the public from site inspections and to scrap planning meetings at Thornbury are particularly anti-democratic. With thousands of new houses being proposed around Thornbury and Charfield under Conservative plans, to choose this moment to move all planning hearings to Kingswood is a double insult to residents in the affected locations.”
The proposed changes would have also meant local councillors being no longer able to request a site inspection for applications in their ward, or to refer contentious planning decision to a meeting of full council.
Local residents were also in line to loose the right to attend or ask questions at planning site inspections.