Pioneering planning pilot has plug pulled

Arun Civic Centre, Littlehampton ENGSUS00120130418113852
Arun Civic Centre, Littlehampton ENGSUS00120130418113852

A LITTLEHAMPTON planning pilot scheme believed to be one of just two of its kind nationwide has been shelved.

Littlehampton Town Council assumed responsibility for determining household applications in 2012, putting planning in the hands of local people.

But Arun District Council’s planning committee voted to end the trial at the end of the year, as delays in determining plans were affecting performance.

Criticising the decision, town council planning chairman Ian Buckland said: “I am not happy with the decision.

“I believe that the pilot scheme has been effective. Constituents felt that those at Arun District Council who don’t live in Littlehampton were making the decisions.

“We were hoping to progress this pilot scheme to bigger and better things in having more of a say in the consultation process within the bigger plans that are going to affect Littlehampton.”

Councillors heard last Wednesday that 42 per cent of applications had taken longer than eight weeks to process, compared to 10 per cent of the same type of applications across the rest of the district.

Head of development control Nikolas Antoniou told the committee they had to balance the ‘tussle’ between promoting localism and protecting performance.

He pointed to a consultation of 12 previous applicants, who had largely responded negatively to the process and suggested it was difficult to solve the issue of delays, as extra committees had to be held.

But countering this, town clerk Peter Herbert and Mr Buckland argued the consultation was negatively weighted and only a small proportion replied.

The committee voted against continuing the pilot, with just two members supporting its continuation.

Councillor Jacqui Maconachie said: “It has been an interesting and obviously appreciated experiment but what does concern me and should all of us is the tight finances and the fact officers pointed out we can’t make allowances for any delays through this system against our performance.”

Cabinet member for planning and infrastructure Ricky Bower said he was ‘sympathetic’ with the town council’s wish to continue but it had been ‘detrimental’ to the council’s performance.