Chawton Parish council successfully lobbied to speak at the recent recent South Alton planning meeting that was to decide on "The largest development Alton has seen for 40 years" according to their chair, cclr Burridge.
Chawton Parish Council takes a balanced view on planning - some is necessary to support the growth of the country and control housing costs, but conversely it has to be "right" for the area and include a good balance of stock from affordable housing through to higher end housing - hence catering for the various needs of the community and it must include the right mix of services as well as houses - after all we all need schools, shops, water, electricity and the Internet for example.
We are also fully supportive of Neighbourhood plans as the mechanism to guide development in a manner that balances the needs of the present community against the needs for expansion over time. After all, the only way to preserve the community spirit and ethos of an area is to ensure that step changes does not take place and we state what we are about. After all, we all moved to our current houses for a reason and one of those reasons is that we liked the house/area/community etc. Newcomers are always welcome, but please try to understand the community before you push for change ...
Anyhow, I digress. During the recent EHDC planning meeting, it became clear that the current EHDC planning committee are largely disconnected from the views of the public they are supposed to represent. Many times statements were made about the "facts" behind the application or the "issues" that needed to be resolved, yet the assembled public from across the community strongly stated their disagreement - only to be shut down by the committee, since there is no official channel for public comment, except the nominated small number of speakers, with their 3 minute slot - so, a biased meeting from the start.
I understand that councilors travel to come to these meetings and they can drag on for a bit, but something significant such as "the largest for 40 years" means that due process should be followed, this means that you have to bring the community with you. EHDC failed to do this, voting by a large margin against the view of those they represent.
At the end of the meeting, a number of members of the public discussed their lack of agreement with the decision in the time honored manner in our free country, by the freedom of speech directly to a number of councilors, the same councilors that are elected by us to represent us. Everything was very restrained, even if you include the person who pointed out the forthcoming election - yes they were shouty, but physical they were not, this is just another form of freedom of speech.
It was therefore interesting to read in the paper the following week that EHDC had decided for the next meeting that discusses the two smaller applications, to hide away in Petersfield at their far smaller offices and engage with the local Police for crowd control. This denies most Altonians from the option of seeing the public debate, since many will not be able to finish work at 5:30 and get to Petersfield in rush-hour traffic, it discriminates against those without transport, or those with mobility, so definitely not inclusive.
Planning and the public consultation is an important part of democracy and localism, by hiding away, this says is that EHDC are running scared from the public. As our representatives, you need to do one thing - LISTEN to your community, LISTEN to their views and ACT upon them. We use democracy, not an autocracy in this country.
You have a public consultation process for planning, people take time to write in with their view and observations, all you have to do is to read them, think and act on them, not just follow the officers recommendation. By example, I go to restaurants and I don't have to take the wine waiters recommendation, I can figure things out for myself, you too can learn this skill, why not start learning it at the next meeting.
Alton wants you to listen to their Neighbourhood plan and to listen to their views. You know what you need to do.
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