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Sorry state of local government and local democracy
Written by Gillian Bull   
Thursday, 02 August 2018 11:48

Gillian Bull has had her letter to The Kentish Gazette in response to a local resident's call to arms on planning issues in the area published. It is a concise and comprehensive expression of the sorry state of local government and local democracy when it comes to planning issues, drawing attention to the small amount of control both the council and residents have over how our city develops into the future when many currently unheeded chickens, such as traffic gridlock and levels of air pollution seriously damaging to health, will come home to roost. Here is Gillian's letter:


Gabrielle Griffiths’ letter (26th July 2018) contains a call to action as follows: “It’s about time Canterbury residents took an active role in questioning these planning applications” [concerning AONBs]. “It’s only by voicing our objections that the Canterbury planning committee will listen.”  She refers specifically to Quinn’s proposed development of 400 dwellings at Cockering Farm.



Before responding to this call to the barricades, people should be aware that, during the past two years and more, the residents of Thanington and Wincheap, and their Ward councillors, have acted vigorously concerning all the proposed developments in Thanington south of the A28.  They have placed documents and comments on Canterbury City Council’s planning applications website, commissioned experts’ reports on traffic safety and pollution issues, and spoken at relevant meetings of CCC’s Planning Committee.


All to absolutely no avail. The sorry history of how our efforts have been ignored or dismissed is set out in detail on wincheapcampaigns.wordpress.com.  Why have things come to such a pass?


The kindest explanation is this: as elsewhere in the UK, Kent County Council and CCC are subjected to policies dictated directly or indirectly by central government policy, for example, production of Local Plans concerning provision of houses.


Lack of central government funds for housing or infrastructure means that local authorities (LAs) depend on developers to provide these.  So, if consent to an application is refused because local residents protest, an LA cannot provide either. If consent is given and specifies a contribution to infrastructure, the developer then controls the start time and phasing of such provision – and probably also its design.  Funding cuts over many years have depleted staff numbers and made recruiting and retention of staff with technical expertise – road and construction engineers, in this case – or sufficient experience to supervise technicians, very difficult.


Civil servants cannot deviate from policies, no matter how perverse – indeed must commit to them – but in effecting them they have to perform the rituals of consultation that the populace has been taught to expect of a system that purports to be one of representative government. Unfortunately, these rituals lead people to expect that their contributions by way of comments and criticisms will be taken on board. When this does not happen, they lose faith in both those whom they elect to represent them and local civil servants. Thus is the system subverted.



Gillian Bull



Last Updated on Thursday, 02 August 2018 12:10