Interview with CBN, plus a win confirmed
Erick Stakelbeck Interview, plus another win (sort of)
You can find Erick Stakelbeck’s interview with me for America’s CBN here:
My bit comes in at the 8:03 mark and lasts until the 17:30 mark.
It was a pleasure to talk with Erick Stakelbeck, a smart, intelligent, and professional presenter, who thinks deeply about the issues. He is the opposite of the PC, conveyor-belt interviewer, and you can’t go wrong signing up to the “Stakelbeck on Terror” weekly bulletin.
Another report based on this interview is due out this week on CBN’s 700 Club show. So please look out for that.
Anyway, enough boasting: now for some bragging.
Why are they always so beautiful and inviting?
Readers will no doubt recall the Purley Mosque planning application, from March 2012:
As usual the Council Planning Officers recommended permission for this “community facility”.
As usual, local feeling was hostile to it, for good reason.
As usual, the Councillors in committee let out a lot of repetitious nonsense about “community”, whilst knowing what this mosque would do to the sense of community. Councillors know what a mosque means for their constituents. They’re paid to know; they’re in a position to know.
And as usual the perma-smiling, glad-handing, smooth-shaven front men for the mosque outfit stormed off in an Islamic huff. Seeing that, you always feel like a Mum must feel, watching her son pull off his first bank job: “Aah, it’s all been worthwhile!”
And then the mosque outfit appealed the refusal. And now it has lost that appeal.
This case shows that writing objection letters to the Council on a planning application works. It counts.
First, the Council must – surprise, surprise – take account of your views.
Second, a Councillor’s rule of thumb is that if one person writes, 10 others intended to. Today, that ratio is even higher. And Councillors notice this.
If you think today’s politician is brave and self sacrificing, perhaps you’ve been living abroad for a while? You’ve certainly never been approached to stand for Council yourself, with the words: “Go on – you get thirteen grand a year you know – plus expenses!”
Such a person is not keen to get voted off the payroll.
Third, objection letters must be taken into account as part of the planning process. They are themselves a reason for refusal, especially if they’re based on planning grounds like parking and disturbance.
Many people think that that planning is an obscure, technical thing, like surgery, where what you think doesn’t matter much. This is sometimes convenient for Council officers, because it makes their lives easier.
But it’s wrong. The planning system has long said that local opinion is relevant to the application. So, with a little guidance about what a “planning matter” is, you can have a big effect.
We give that guidance. That is why we win.
It’s not just politics. It’s set out in the technicality of government policy. The government’s National Planning Policy Framework is clear that it:
“provides a framework within which local people and their accountable councils can produce their own distinctive local and neighbourhood plans, which reflect the needs and priorities of their communities.”
See that word “accountable”? Your local Council answers to you. Just see what happened in Purley.
The first bunch of planning professionals, the Planning Officers, recommend permission for this mosque. We can’t be sure whether they were influenced by the desire for a quiet life. But they appear to have underestimated local opposition.
But Councillors don’t underestimate it at all. Not if they want to get in again next time. And by the time they made their decision, the objections had come in. The Councillors refused planning permission. The mosque outfit went to appeal.
At appeal, a different planning professional, the Planning Inspector, gets to make the decision. She has all the local objections to hand from the start. And this planning professional came to a different conclusion from the Planning Officers, and dismissed the mosque outfit’s appeal. Shame.
What changed in the meantime? The proposal didn’t change. What changed was all the objections that came in.
The appeal Inspector might say that she just looked at the case differently. But I would bet the reason she did so was because of the strength of local opinion. English people – unlike some other groups – are reasonable, and generally only kick up a fuss if they mean it. And her reasons for refusal were the same as the objectors’ reasons.
Can we chalk this up as another win? Probably not. We had already won, and the appeal Inspector confirmed the refusal.
It would be nice to add it to our tally. But it’s the same mosque as a previous win. It’s the same neighbourhood that now has some time. It’s the same neighbours who have a chance to hold out.
So our success rate will just have to stay at 93.75%, instead of shooting up to 94.11%.
The point is that your objection letters are a key contribution. They are weighed in the balance when the planning decision is made.
These cases are won and lost at the desk. It’s a grind, but stick at it.
If you do, you’ll win.