The planning process spanned two Councils. Council one opposed the application and supported a local group who tried to raise funds for a bid which failed miserably. When revised plans were submitted the new Council came to be and the newly elected Ward Cllrs failed to call in these plans i.e. an action which allows Cllrs to decide the application rather that the nominated Council Officer.
The former ward Cllr when discussing the case has said when referring to the need to call in planning applications
The xxxxxx application is one such application given the local interest and feeling regarding the site over many years, and the extent of the proposal. I had indicated to officers that I intended to call it to committee should they intend recommending approval.
Until the facility was forced to close it was extensively used for community activities and I ran the PACT meetings there for years. I believe that further improvement could have been achieved in the design and volume of the application and a possibility that a significant sum could potentially have been gained for the community, in order that provision be created elsewhere, by resisting the application under policy DM68.
Planning regulation DM68 exists:
‘To protect existing and planned community facilities from alternative development where a community use is still viable, unless it involves the provision of a suitable replacement facility.’
Our community is desperately short of facilities and of course we are working to replace our library.
Policy DM68 states
Land and buildings in existing use, last used for, or proposed for use for a sporting, cultural or community facility, are protected for that purpose unless the land is allocated for another purpose in another planning document.
DM68 goes on to say.
‘Development of such sites or buildings for other uses will only be permitted if one of the following applies of which the relevant section is as follows.
‘Where acceptable alternative provision of at least equivalent community benefit is made available in the same vicinity and capable of serving the same catchment area’.
Regrettably, by this permission being granted the site is now allocated for housing and our opportunity is lost.
There is no guarantee that we would have been successful in gaining funds, however that is no reason for not trying. This application should have been debated in open forum.
What I don’t understand is what could have possibly been gained and under what circumstances and who would have paid for it.