Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 24, 2018

The Thoughts Of Cllr Gail Hodson On Planning Matters In Tarleton

Where, you might ask, would WLBC Cllr Gail Hodson seek expert advice on planning matters? Pillow talk? Possibly, as planning could be bread and butter, and night time reading too, in the Hodson household.

As it happens planning, master planning, is the hot topic in Tarleton, attracting letters to the Champion from interested parties, such as Cllr Baron, the subject of the Cllr Gail Hodson reply today . She reminds Cllr Baron of the pledge of councillors to represent all residents in the borough. She highlights the limits of consultation by the exclusion of press and public from a meeting that might affect Tarleton for the next 30 years.

And, as important as ever, she mentions the myth “that needs dispelling that councillors cannot express opinions on planning applications”. The threshold for pre-determination is high. Regarding candidate and elected member pledges, there is case law to say that politicians can discuss issues in campaigns and still be open minded when making a decision R (Lewis) v Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council [2010]‘[Councillors] can properly take part in the debates which lead to planning applications made by the Council itself. It is common ground that in the case of some applications they are likely to have, and are entitled to have, a disposition in favour of granting permission’.

As for Tarleton , you are “Welcomed to the website for the people and friends of the parish of Tarleton. It is administered by the Parish Council but has more to offer than just Parish Council matters. It also tells you about Tarleton and allows you to tell your elected representatives what concerns you have”.

It states “The Lilford Estate and Tarleton Parish Council are collectively working together to prepare a Masterplan which sets out a sustainable vision for Tarleton and its neighbouring villages over the next 30 years. Details are available by clicking here, which takes you to a separate dedicated website.

“How do I find out more? Both the Lilford Estate, through its appointed Agent, Acland Bracewell Surveyors Limited and Tarleton Parish Council would like to seek the views of the local community on the proposals to assist West Lancashire Borough Council in preparing their Local Plan Review.

“To provide more details of our proposals for Tarleton, we are holding a Public Exhibition: What Happens Next? Following the public exhibition, both the Lilford Estate and Tarleton Parish Council will review all of your comments. Your views will then inform the overall Tarleton Masterplan, which will then be submitted to West Lancashire Borough Council, as part of their consultation process on the Local Plan Review.

“Have Your Say. If you would like to have your say on the Tarleton Masterplan, please download the Feedback Form by clicking on the link below. Consultation will close on Wednesday 1st August 2018”.

In 2013 the Secretary of State wrote “Under the last Administration, the Standards Board regime undermined freedom of speech in local government. This was compounded by a further gold-plating of pre-determination rules, fuelled by misconceptions about the flawed regime, going far beyond what was reasonable or legally necessary.

“The Localism Act 2011 has abolished the Standards Board regime, and has also clarified the position with regard to pre-determination and bias. Section 25 clarifies that a councillor is not to be regarded as being unable to act fairly or without bias if they participate in a decision on a matter simply because they have previously expressed a view or campaigned on it. The effect is that councillors may campaign and represent their constituents – and then speak and vote on those issues – without fear of breaking the rules on pre-determination.

“In this context, I feel that blanket advice which states that councillors cannot participate in a meeting purely because there is merely a ‘perception of bias’ or ‘risk of bias’ is potentially wrong. It will, of course, depend on the individual circumstances, but the flexibilities and freedoms laid out in Section 25 may apply.

“It is worth drawing a distinction between pre- determination and pre-disposition. Councillors should not have a closed mind when they make a decision, as decisions taken by those with pre-determined views are vulnerable to successful legal challenge”.

The subject has been proved to be soporific, as we recall  this delightful scene in a recent WLBC “planning training for councillors” event. As one Aughton Park resident said “She represents us? Dream on”. And so she does.

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