Thursday, August 20, 2009

It is More than Tesco

I was at the City Council’s East Area Committee this morning. The substance of the event – should the council enforce its own planning guidelines – may seem a strange topic to normal people. After all, why bother with rules if you do not plan on enforcing them? However, the City Council has overruled its own guidelines to the point that the council is treated with ridicule by many of those putting in applications. Did you know that two in every five appeals against the city are successful?

Some councillors, including Chris Howell (Conservative), had to speak from the floor because of the way the rules for representation and participation are drawn up. Chris’s contribution was superb. It showed how having a councillor with a clear understanding of the issues, and the ability to express them on behalf of local residents, can make a difference to a meeting.

However, today was more than about Tesco in Mill Road. The debate on the need for another supermarket is quite separate from the planning, highways, change of use and access questions that come up. Today’s meeting threw more light on the whole way that the planning system operates in the city: it’s a muddle.

Although not officially part of the Committee, the Liberal Democrat leader of the city council was there. He twice had to talk to the officials during the proceedings. As the architect of the system, I hope he saw how it was not working.

Cambridge can do so much better. We need more councillors like Chris to make the change.


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