Councillors set to air their concerns to the top

A GROUP of North Devon councillors are heading to London next week to take their concerns about planning policies and processes to the Prime Minister.

It follows universal support at North Devon Council for a Notice of Motion, proposed by Cllr Joe Tucker. The notice expresses members’ concerns at how government policy is putting them in a ‘straightjacket’ and putting at risk their ability to exercise local democracy in determining development proposals.

Eleven councillors are due to meet North Devon MP Nick Harvey on Monday, where they will hand-deliver a letter and the Notice of Motion to Number 10 Downing Street.

“Local councillors must be able to make choices on behalf of our communities and not be forced into decisions by restrictions that unfairly give developers the advantage,” said Cllr Joe Tucker. “We are being restricted by an ever tightening straightjacket and we need government to sit up and take action.”

After delivering the letter to Number 10, the North Devon councillors will accompany Nick Harvey to Portcullis House at Westminster, where they will meet with a special advisor from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Mr Harvey said: “While there has been much talk of greater localism for the local authority, planning seems to be ever more contentious and often divisive. I am therefore delighted to be able to take this message, along with North Devon councillors, right to the top.”

NDC planning committee chairman Cllr Eric Ley said: “It’s become near impossible to refuse major planning applications involving housing or renewable energy, irrespective of their merits, without incurring huge legal fees in defending appeals. As a result, we have become governed by the Planning Inspectorate, leaving local democracy dead in the water.”