The development of new homes in Basildon has increased considerably in recent years, to the extent that reviewing planning applications has become by far the single most time consuming activity on the Parish Council agenda every month. Many residents are concerned at this level of expansion and ask what role the Parish Council plays. The following paragraphs briefly explain the process.
The Parish Council (PC) acts as a statutory consultee in the planning process with West Berkshire Council (WBC) but does not have any direct power to grant or refuse an application. When a new application is submitted to the WBC, a copy is sent to the PC for comments. WBC has set itself a target of five working days to post an orange planning notice at the Application site. On receipt of the Application plans, the PC has, at most, 3 weeks to respond with its comments which may be to support or to oppose the Application. Any decision to oppose the application must be on the basis of "material planning considerations".
The most common of these are:
- Local, Strategic, Regional & National Planning policies
- The Village Design Statement
- Previous Appeal Decisions by Planning Inspectors
- Loss of Daylight or Sunlight
- Overshadowing/Loss of view (but not loss of an individual’s view)
- Overlooking / Loss of Privacy
- Highway Issues - Traffic Generation, Vehicle Access & Safety
- Noise & Disturbance
- Light Pollution
- Hazardous Materials / Ground Contamination
- Loss of Trees
- Nature Conservation
- Effect on Listed Buildings, a Conservation Area and AONB
- Layout and Density of buildings
- Design, Visual Appearance & Materials
- Archaeologocal considerations
- Risk of Flooding
- Inadequacy of Sewage disposal systems
- Disabled Persons Access
Matters which cannot normally be taken into account are:
- Matters controlled under Building Regulations and other non Planning Laws
- Private Issues between neighbours
- Loss of Value of property
- Problems arising from the construction period
Most applications are decided by WBC’s Planning Officers under delegated powers. However, there are circumstances in which the decision is referred to the Eastern Area Planning Committee. The most common reason is when 10 or more letters of objection have been received and the Planning Officer’s recommendation is to approve the Application. Alternatively, the Basildon Ward Member (Alan Law) may request it to go before the committee. WBC Planning Committee meetings are held every three weeks at which interested parties including the Parish Council, the objectors and the applicant may speak. Each of these parties is strictly limited to 5 minutes in total. No new material may be introduced unless lodged with WBC at least 5 working days before the Committee meeting.
If the WBC decision is to reject the planning Application, the applicant has the right to appeal. They can also submit revised plans in light of the objections. However, if the WBC decision is to grant the Application, the Parish Council has no similar right of appeal against that decision.
The Parish Council has a responsibility to be fair and objective in responding to planning applications. In protecting the character of Upper and Lower Basildon and in taking account of the views of Residents, it must also consider the rights of the Applicants to develop their property.
The Village Design Statement
In 2001 the Basildon Village Design Statment was produced and is the current mechanism by which the residents influence the future of the village. It has been accepted by West Berkshire Council as Supplementary Planning Guidance and is listed as SPG No.20 in their Local Development Scheme May 2007 document. This clearly shows the emphasis they put on it and indicates that it is likely to remain a relevant document for some time.