IS it too much for us, the general public, to expect Chichester District Council planning officers, who are specifically trained in the subject of planning, should at least have a modicum of understanding of the nature of the problems associated with the area under their control?
Why do we need paid planning officers if they cannot do the job satisfactorily? It appears the Chichester officers are merely carrying out the dictates of central government and are in fact being lazy and leaving it to unpaid councillors to do all the donkey work.
Perhaps we should do away with paid planning officers who appear to be poor value for money and just pay them to carry out the instructions of the elected councillors who appear to be more aware of local problems.
The recent approval of an application to turn the Royal Oak, in East Wittering, into a Co-op store is a case in point.
In their application, the Co-op submitted a report entitled East Wittering Village Health Check and Retail Statement.
This report was obviously cobbled together from a previous one relating to a similar store in Freshwater, on the Isle of Wight.
There were several inaccurate references to Shoreham Road and a Tesco superstore, neither of which are present in East Wittering.
There were also several other inaccurate comments included in the document.
Graeme Barratt, councillor for East Wittering, pointed out these inaccuracies, all to no avail.
The planning officers railroaded the application through and virtually instructed the elected councillors to approve the application. What has happened to democracy?
Other inaccurate information that was not followed up were statements in relation to the lessee of the Royal Oak owing money and that another empty shop in East Wittering has been sold and will be opening shortly, leading to the belief the Royal Oak itself was unviable and there wasn’t a problem filling empty shops.
These were two of the main reasons put forward by the applicant for suggesting the Royal Oak be redeveloped.
The reliability and accuracy of the reports was questioned by the committee but the decision was allowed to continue due to pressure from the officers.
If the paid officers cannot be bothered to check the accuracy of the information submitted with such applications and then railroad the elected members into approving the application, this surely is a shameful misuse of their power and position.