Councillor Patrik Garten is the Maidstone Borough Councillor for the Hollingbourne area and his December newsletter is published below. The views expressed are those of Councillor Garten and are not necessarily endorsed by Hollingbourne Parish Council. Please Read More for further information.
Where did the last four weeks go? I did not have many local issues to deal with, so what to write about? Maybe something for the gardener? Do you like to watch grass grow? Then you must be a regular web cast viewer of Full Council meetings!
If so, you had a rude awakening on the 6th of November. A really heated debate was to be watched !
You may remember that in April the Planning Committee decided against an application regarding Woodcut Farm / Junction 8 business park.
The officers invoked the Planning Referrals Committee, a committee of three members, in the hope to overrule the 13 member Planning Committee’s decision. Thankfully they failed.
The Maidstone Constitution allows for such an action, if the officers think that the Planning Committee’s decision cannot be upheld upon appeal and will therefore cost the Council a bomb in legal fees.
This referral caused a lot of upset all around, and you may have read about it in the local press. As a result of this bitter experience, the Democracy Committee proposed, at Full Council, a change of constitution:
Any planning referral should be heard by all members at Full Council, so that all elected Councillors will take joint political responsibility for any highly controversial and possibly costly decision by the Planning Committee.
A wise proposal, you may think. Unfortunately the leading Liberal Party did not agree and hijacked a simple and sensible idea. At Full Council they amended the Democracy Committee’s proposal, so that any planning referral will now go to the 15 member Policy and Resources Committee, which is heavily dominated by the Liberals and their supporting friends. A very un-liberal decision !
What does this mean in practice?
What a lot of people do not realise is that the elected politicians on the Planning Committee (as well as those on the Licensing Committee) are not carrying out a political function at all ! It’s not their choice, but the law of the land.
The decision-making procedure at Planning Committee is very much guided by legal rationale and laws, rather than political will. The Planning Committee fulfils a quasi-judicial function (being an elected legal judge) and NOT a political one.
– I know, you are surprised, aren’t you ?
So, if a planning application becomes so outrageous that members of the Planning Committee simply cannot agree with the legal rationale, because they fear the wroth of the electorate, then they may come to a decision, which may be brave but very likely to be appealed in the courts.
If such a decision should be taken, then you can rest assured that their decision will be referred to the Policy & Resources Committee, whose brief is to guard the Borough’s finances.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention, there was a by-election recently which we Conservatives lost. The Liberals are now the strongest force on the Council. In Maidstone the main difference between Liberals and Conservatives is, that the former are the townies and we are the urbanites.
Roll on 2018 ! Does this mean that the rurals get concreted over while “outrageous” urban planning applications will be fend off ? Already Woodcut Farm / J8 was given outline planning permission.
– Happy New Year !
MBC Councillor for North Downs Ward, including Hollingbourne
Pictured below is Councillor Garten.