This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

As much foresight as a bread pudding

Here is the full, unedited version of my letter published in the Buckingham Advertiser this week:
Dear Editor
Cllr Pearl Lewis in your paper last week did a valiant job in seeking to explain the basis for AVDC’s decision on the application to build 80 homes on the Moreton Road. However some serious questions remain unanswered which perhaps she or the chair of the committee might care to address:
Why has it taken AVDC this long to prepare the Vale of Aylesbury plan? Anyone with an ounce of foresight could have seen that we would be in the situation Cllr Lewis describes where we are caught between the old and new housing plans. If AVDC had got it skates on, this could have been avoided.
Given that she reports that the plan may well be challenged by housing developers for being too low on housing projections, has AVDC engaged with these developers? Was there room for a deal to be struck that would have satisfied all and smoothed the way for the plan to be approved? Has AVDC been caught napping again?
And Cllr Lewis says the only basis on which the Planning Inspector’s judgement could be challenged was the housing numbers. What about the absence of any proper traffic impact measurement? And the fact that the Inspector overlooked the traffic impact on Maids Moreton mostly on the basis that the person who submitted some evidence on this failed to appear in person? (Indeed, where is Cllr Lewis’ criticism of the fact that Buckinghamshire County Council were advised by AVDC planning not to bother submitting further traffic challenges to the second application?) There were other measures on which to challenge the decision, in my opinion.
Moreover, when did legal action in the High Court against the original Planning Inspector’s decision cease? When did AVDC instruct its legal team to stop doing anything? Before or after the decision a couple of weeks ago?
The Town Council has, on many occasions, asked AVDC to enforce the conservation area in the centre of town only to be met with a very lack lustre response. If AVDC does not have the capacity / will / capability to enforce even its own planning regulations, why doesn’t the whole planning department and accompanying council committees just pack their collective bags and stop wasting our money on pointless & pusillanimous bureaucracy? Or are conservation areas just vanity projects for the Council?
And in terms of deciding not to pursue legal action when the likely outcome is failure, what about HS2? I understand and support the campaigns against HS2 (I think there are much better ways to spend public money and address capacity problems on our railways). But how likely was it that the 51m group (collection of councils campaigning against HS2) would ever succeed in stopping the high speed railway due to legal measures? AVDC  has contributed £124,000 of our money towards the campaign, much of which has been spent on legal action. Was this a good use of taxpayers’ money? Really? Again anyone with an ounce of ordinary common sense would know that HS2 will be defeated politically not legally. 
These are crucial questions about the quality of our local district council which appears to have strategic priorities at odds with local people and about as much foresight as a bread pudding. 
Sincerely yours

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