Councillors have been accused of “ripping the character and soul out of Lichfield”.
A number of residents aired their views at a recent meeting of Lichfield District Council’s planning committee after a proposal was approved.
But in an open letter to members of the committee, the residents said they were concerned over whether public views were really being heard on planning matters:
“The outburst was as a result of frustrations felt by many of the objectors present due to the continued performance and decisions, from not only Lichfield District Council’s planning department, but also the planning committee.
“Those who have experienced the planning process as we have question the capability of those involved but, more importantly, their compassion.
“They seem unable to make decisions which consider the impact on residents, but rather make decisions which align only with the wishes and pockets of the developers.
“The ‘presumption in favour of developers’ is ripping the character and soul out of Lichfield, and causing untold stress to those residents who are increasingly unlucky enough to experience profit-focused builders.”
“Budget protection and cowardice”
The statement also accused the council of showing “cowardice” when taking on developers:
“The metric of ‘no failed planning appeals’, self-selected by the council to assess quality planning, is at the heart of many of the planning deptartment ills.
“This metric is not one of quality but one of budget protection and cowardice.
“Cowardice to stand firm with its planning policies, which residents believe are in place to protect this city and themselves.
“Those that have experienced planning would challenge this belief.
“Policies consulted on and adopted appear to be optional dependent on the level of force with which the applicant is prepared to threaten an appeal if refused.
“It is the good people of Lichfield that pay the price – too many cookie cutter developments, loss of greenery, over development and back-yard development.
“A small price – Lichfield District Council considers – to pay as long as budget is saved.”
“Lack of challenge and debate is a disgrace”
The residents say they wrote the letter after being told their outburst at the planning meeting had been criticised by members of the committee.
But they accused the members of failing to tackle the issues at hand after the local authority figures revealed that only six members of the 15-strong committee had attended all six sittings of the committee since June, with one only attending half of the sessions:
“If the actions are ‘unseemly’ to you [the members of the committee], we suggest you look at yourselves.
“The lack of challenge and debate of the recommendations by the planning department by most councillors is a disgrace.
“The lack of attendance by many is unacceptable.
“You are often the last hope of objectors who need help to protect their homes and privacy – you are failing them through your action, or more accurately, your lack of action.”
A spokesperson for Lichfield District Council spokesperson said councillors judged each proposal based on a range of factors:
“When planning decisions are made by the planning committee, they receive detailed reports on every application.
“This enables them to make informed decisions, having regard to local and national policy and all other material planning considerations.”Lichfield District Council spokesperson