Localism Act to give community say in planning

Graham Cregeen MHK

Graham Cregeen MHK

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The island should give small communities a greater say in planning matters in their area and introduce a Localism Act, said Ballasalla and District Residents’ Association (BADRA).

In response, Malew and Santon MHK Graham Cregeen is investigating introducing a Manx version of the UK act.

BADRA chairman Mike Henthorn updated the public on the association’s activities at an AGM in the village hall on April 14.

He said: ‘For too long, central government has hoarded and concentrated power. This creates bureaucracy and leaves no room for adaptation to reflect local circumstances and high costs. It also leaves people in local communities such as Ballasalla feeling “done to” and imposed upon which is the very opposite of the sense of involvement and participation on which a healthy democracy survives. The burden of red tape, expense and oversight by central government has to be reduced and the barriers which prevent local representative groups like the commissioners, local residents’ organisations and other local organisations from getting things done for themselves need to be removed.’

The association has asked Mr Cregeen to investigate, through consultation with government officers and politicians, a change in the law.

‘It will set out a series of measures to achieve a substantial and lasting shift in power away from central government and towards local people. They include new freedom and flexibility for local government, new rights for communities and individuals and reform the planning system to make it more democratic and effective. Not only will this significantly drive down cost to central government but it will ensure that important decisions, for example about housing, are taken locally. Most importantly, it would mean that local organisations such as BADRA, would become recognised as properly constituted bodies within the framework of the legislation and thus have a statutory right to be heard, for example in such matters as clearly defining the Ballasalla village boundaries,’ said Mr Henthorn.

He warned the process will take time and meet resistance. ‘It will change the face of planning for the benefit of small neighbourhoods and communities who will no longer be subjected to inappropriate, dictatorial and in many cases incorrect planning decisions which have blighted communities forever.’

Mr Cregeen said: ‘I have been looking at a few cases in the UK, it’s all to do with neighbourhood planning policy, it allows small places to discuss what types of development goes in their area. Groups can get together and with local authorities work on how they would like the area to be developed in the future, one of the things is to chat with developers.’

He added it could assist in giving a more holistic consideration of a development’s impact on an area. ‘When they built Governor’s Hill, they did not say you are going to have to build a new school ... It’s designing for the future, rather than giving planning permission for 200 houses and when the 198th house is built they think about a new school.

‘For example, when they build Ballakilley (on the border of Port Erin and Rushen parish) what about the infrastructure for that number of people driving to work in Douglas, the roads will be more congested.’

Rather than add another layer of bureaucracy to the planning process, he said it should simplify it, ‘hopefully it will also save money and give more certainty about what it [a development] will look like.’

Mr Cregeen needs the backing of fellow politicians if he is to progress this as a private member’s bill, he said.

Feedback so far from planners has been negative, he said, ‘the planners do not seem to like it. There may be valid reason for concern, it might not work here, but it’s worth having a look at to see if it’s of benefit. You have got to look at Poacher’s Pocket [in Ballasalla], it’s an example of bad planning, they were supposed to be single storey houses now you’ve got big roofs on them with first floors. That’s the frustration, you fight the battle and they impose worse things on them than what was envisaged.’

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