INFRASTRUCTURE minister Phil Gawne MHK said it is ‘rubbish’ to suggest Mr Tilleard was given special treatment by offering him a meeting with planning officers to discuss an amended proposal for Lorne House.
‘The general policy is if an application fails on some technical reason and, in principle, there are still grounds for the development to proceed, it’s entirely reasonable to say while rejecting this one, that does not mean there is no further opportunity for this to be successful,’ said Mr Gawne.
‘It’s rubbish to suggest that there is special treatment for Mr Tilleard. Unfortunately, it’s the right of all politicians to say the first thing that comes into their heads, but it’s a nonsense to say treatment of him is special.
‘I can point to numerous examples where I have done the same thing since I have been minister. There are many instances where applications have been rejected where there may be another solution you may not have realised. We are not in the process of thwarting people’s applications.’
The department intends to beef up its stance on its ability to take action over retrospective planning applications, rather than tone down its response, as suggested in a comment made at the hearing by the planning committee that: ‘It is unhelpful when demolition proceeds without planning approval but the purpose of enforcement is to regularise, not to punish. It is not part of the committee’s case that the demolished structures should still be standing.’
Mr Gawne said: ‘That does not say we do not punish people for doing the things they should not do. We do take action where we can. Possibly we should be taking stronger action where we can, particularly on retrospective applications.
‘Our main purpose is to try and find solutions for people, not slapping on penalties and penalising them.
‘We do take enforcement action. We need to revise the planning legislation to allow us to have more power to take action and that’s one of the items that will be addressed in the next five-year term. We need to have more ability to take action against people. That’s on my hit list of things I would like to tackle after the election, if I’m in a position to do so.’
He added: ‘No matter what we do, there will always be unfairness in the system. People who reject plans think we are in favour of the developer; the developer thinks we are in favour of the objector.
‘We try to do our best and get a balance in the middle.’
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