Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Tulle Court - Planning approved, but disappointment for residents
Perhaps more disappointing was the lack of representation made available to residents at the meeting. The rules state that each side (those in favour of the application, and those against) may speak for two minutes. Ward Councillors may then speak, then members of the Committee, and then there is a vote. Unfortunately, two of the St Mary’s Councillors are on the Planning Committee, and so couldn’t speak for residents. The third was unavailable as well. This left local people without representation. I volunteered, but could be of little use because I am not a councillor. I arranged for Cllr Vic D’Albert, the Lib Dem Councillor for Holyrood ward, to attend and speak instead of a ward Councillor. Not only is he the Councillor for the ward next door, but he is Chair of Prestwich Area Board, and a resident of St Mary’s. Unfortunately, he was prevented from speaking, and the residents had no extra help. I am very disappointed by this.
Whilst I appreciate the potential for appeals should the rules be broken in this way, it would have been fairer, in my view, to seek a compromise position with the applicants rather than reject the offer of help from Cllr D’Albert out of hand. He wasn’t making his offer of help to score political points, but out of a genuine desire to help. Residents are entitled to representation, and could not receive it. It is my view that special arrangements should be made for alternative Councillor assistance should no ward Councillor be available.
The decision on the planning application itself was not entirely what residents wanted. But it will be accepted. The process though has left a sour taste with those of us who believe that it was rushed and completed without adequate consultation. Although we will all be happier with Tulle Court renovated and back providing housing for local people, last night’s events have sullied residents’ opinions of the Council and the democratic process, and were a shame in my opinion.
People entrusted with power should remember who entrusted them with it. At a time when faith in the political process is low, turnout in elections is falling, and opinions of politicians are poor, we have a duty of fairness to residents. I think there was a failure of that duty last night.