There was visible anger and cries of “shame” from the public gallery last night as Conservative councillors unanimously voted down a proposal to put controversial planning changes out to public consultation, so that local residents can have a say on them. Instead the Conservatives voted the changes through on the night against Lib Dem and Labour opposition.
Cllr Sue Hope (Cotswold Edge) said: “When he became Leader of the Council earlier this year, Cllr Savage claimed that there would be a new dawn of openness and transparency under his leadership. He has fallen very hard at the first hurdle. It is frankly astonishing that he and his councillors would seek to push through such sweeping changes to our planning system without giving residents a chance to comment and be listened to.”
Imploring Conservative councillors to think again, Cllr Tony Davis (Dodington) said: “All we are saying is ‘give the public a say.’ You were elected by local residents to represent their interests, not simply to blindly vote the way you are told by your leader. If you vote these changes through without consulting the public, your credibility with residents on planning issues will be out the window for good.”
Cllr Maggie Tyrrell (Thornbury South & Alveston) said: “Because the public have not been consulted, I’m not sure many people will realise they are about to lose important planning rights. Under these rule changes, members of the public will be banned from attending and speaking at site inspections, as they currently can. Regular planning meetings at Thornbury will be scrapped, meaning that the planning process will be made less accessible for residents in the west of South Gloucestershire. Residents will feel that the deck is being stacked against them even further. This really is a shabby and undemocratic move by the Conservatives.”