|This is NOT our normal Newsletter – that will appear next week.
This is a Special Alert that we use only rarely to bring something of particular importance to your notice; our thanks to residents who have already contacted us. Councillors, no gagging order can prevent you from reading this!
Christchurch Council (CBC) has just taken a decision that appears for no reason that we can understand to run roughshod over our local democratic processes.
A while back CBC Planning Officers recommended that three simultaneous applications to build supermarkets in our area should be turned down: one in Somerford; one on the site of the Beagle Technology factory at Stony Lane; one at Bailey Bridge.
We used our monthly Newsletters and our website to draw your attention to the Bailey Bridge application in particular. An unprecedented number of you contacted your local Councillors and expressed your support for the scheme. Some of them told us at the time that they didn’t receive a single objection from local residents.
At the five hour long Planning Meeting on 14th June Councillors Bungey and Phipps spoke on behalf of other local Councillors such as Fred Neale and you, the local constituents, to express the very strong local opinion that the Bailey Bridge proposal (which in addition to a supermarket included 25 affordable homes, a health and fitness centre, a children’s play area, and the redevelopment of the river bank) should go ahead.
The Planning Committee, made up of elected Councillors from various wards, voted to turn down both the Somerford site and the Stony Lane application (which had attracted a petition against its construction of more than 500 residents) but voted to approve the Bailey Bridge application. There was relatively unusual cross party support for the Bailey Drive application.
On Thursday we heard the disturbing news that CBC has sought to overturn the elected Councillors democratic decision and is to refer all three supermarket sites back to another special Planning Committee, to be held probably in September, for reconsideration. If you want to read an Echo article and the comments it has attracted go to www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/ and enter Quantum in the pink search box on the top right hand side.
[Apologies to you in advance for CBC gobbledygook - you can safely skip the next paragraph if it makes your eyes roll. Our additions are in square brackets]
CBC maintain there is a "legitimate concern that the[Planning]Committee Members failed to give proper consideration to the sequential test [to do with flood risk]as now set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, and also failed properly to consider the materiality of the financial package offered by Bailey, specifically in the light of Regulation 122 of the CIL [Community Infrastructure Levy]Regulations 2010".
CBC Officers are present when Councillors debate planning applications. They are there to guide, help and assist. How did they manage to allow five hours of debate to take place without explaining and rectifying the alleged shortcomings detailed above?
CBC Officers recommended that all three schemes should be turned down. Two of them were turned down. What reason is there to now review those two decisions? Is CBC admitting it was wrong in its original assessments as far as these two proposals are concerned?
Why has the CBC Legal Services Manager issued a gagging order to your local Councillors telling them that they must not discuss this issue with us?
CBC, like all Local Authorities, has to take great care over what unbudgeted expenditure it incurs. This decision by CBC could easily provoke Quantum Group (who put forward the Bailey Bridge proposal) into very expensive litigation against CBC. They have already put it to us in writing that “we do not consider this decision to be legal”. If you want to read the whole of their e-mail to us go to www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on “planning” on left hand side and scroll down the page.
CBC has a duty to encourage new inward investment into Christchurch. If you were planning to invest many millions of pounds in a business venture how would you now judge Christchurch as a possible venue, given what has just happened?
Finally, how do you feel about CBC Officers deciding that they will ignore your wishes as expressed by your elected representatives in this way?
We will be writing to CBC seeking an explanation for these events. If you have a view on this (or information that is not known to us) please let us know by replying to this Alert. We will not reveal your identity but will summarise all comments received and use them in any future discussions we enter into on this topic.
If you want to contact your local Councillor you will find their contact details on our website www.wcresidents.co.uk under “useful contacts” on the left hand side.