Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Problems with SLDC land allocation

There is a basic flaw in this: planning.

It is highly vulnerable to big business.

Building firms like Persimmons have masses of amounts of cash which can be used in many many ways to influence government policies in their favour.

The two most vulnerable are the planning department of the district council which oversees not only an individual house application but that of housing estates and more than this: the impact of that housing development on the surrounding area. Here, the second is the highways department of the county which is very important.

One can find great variations in the outcome of planning decisions. This can be because the planning departments and the councillors on the planning committee can be confident to enforce their decision with a single home owner- who won't have the cash resources to disagree. However with Big Businesses the councils feel that they don't have the cash resources to enforce their wishes. When taken to appeal the councils fear that they won't be able to afford a good legal team to fight their cause and even though they feel strongly about an issue with an individual, they buckle with Big Business because BB have far greater cash resources. Big Business can often get their way when the public and sometimes the planners, don't want them to.

In the case of Housing Estates the access roads are extremely important which is where the trustworthiness of the County Highways Department is essential. Here there can a lot of incompetence through lack of rigour in enforcing the law or far worse the system is open to bribery.

The trustworthiness of the system depends on the chief executive who supervises his many departments.

There seems to be a vast difference in the way that districts operate even locally. SLDC is very weak whereas Copeland our neighbour is strong.

The bullying attitude of Lawrence Conway, the chief exec of SLDC over his officers over the recent Mill Dam Park demonstrates a council with severe problems. Furthermore the planning department is only 50% staffed without even a chief planning officer : decisions are being made by a manager with a highly questionable background.

With CCC Highways, there have been severe problems with incompetence leading to the head of our local area , Nick Raymond, being moved to Carlisle and then on to Barrow.

What can be done?

The key to a well run local council is the quality of the elected councillors. They are the people who should monitor the system. Too often they do nothing in this area. Like many politicians they can be many attracted to being seen to be 'important' : how they are reported in the media is important. What they do behind the scenes to make sure officers care competent and honest is rarely seen by the public so that this essential side of a councillors work can be ignored. This is what happens most of the time: checks on corrupt practises are ignored.

If the public aren't interested all the better.

To change the system we, the public, need to ask questions - too often even these are ignored.

So with this land allocation, the main problem is the influence of Big Business in pushing through their cash driven wishes. This can often ignore public safety or value for money concerns. It's the little and poorer man that suffers.

What can we do?

My answer is to publish a blog like this that is independent of the media and the politicians.

Lets work together and share our experiences and get the system working better.

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