ALL is far from well between Wiltshire and Salisbury. At least, on the planning and helpfulness front.
The volunteers working on a neighbourhood plan to give local people an input into future development decisions say they are getting precious little help from Trowbridge staff, who treat them as a nuisance.
A quick read of some paperwork for tonight’s (Monday) city council planning committee spells out their frustration.
It’s buried in the city’s draft response to government ideas on how to speed up house-building. (These basically amount to getting rid of what Boris Johnson sees as unnecessary red tape, and sorting out those pesky great crested newts – a protected species with an irritating habit of living slap in the middle of whatever patch of countryside his big builder buddies can’t wait to cover in concrete. A bit like all those ancient woodlands and HS2. You know the kind of thing.)
Anyway, here’s what Salisbury’s team are telling the government about how neighbourhood planning could be improved. I’ve edited it just to clarify:
“The biggest blockage to evidence gathering” is Wiltshire’s “reluctance to support” them.
“The mindset of the officers is not helpful (it is reluctant)” and the city team have to ask repeatedly for the evidence they need.
“Local plan policies are not prepared in a collaborative manner with the community” and “liaison meetings are often uncomfortable because the Wiltshire officers appear to consider the neighbourhood planners as a blockage to what they are trying to achieve”.
In addition, the Wiltshire website is “hard to navigate and the search facilities do not usually return the correct links”. (As a journalist, I can vouch for that.)
So what’s to be done?
The Government must recognise that neighbourhood plans are largely prepared by volunteers in their spare time, the team say.
“Developers and planning officers get paid for working on neighbourhood plans – neighbourhood planners do not.”
Each planning authority such as Wiltshire should be required to have specific staff to support neighbourhood plans, which “should not be treated by officers as an irrelevant inconvenience”.
I think they’ve made themselves clear!
To me it’s an inevitable result of taking all power away from a historic city that ought to be, and used to be, the centre of democracy for miles around. But you’re probably sick of me banging on about that one.
The Salisbury lot are pretty unimpressed with the government’s proposals, too. I’ll talk about why in another post.