Objectors are livid - accusing Bolton Council of “stifling democracy” after the local planning department decided to stop publishing public objections on their planning applications website.
As with most local authorities, public representations (of both supporters and objectors) were previously published alongside statutory consultation responses and the applicants own details.
However Bolton Council have taken the decision to remove the facility 'to help austerity measures' in an aim to cut more than £2 million worth of expenditure from its bottom line.
A Council spokesman was quoted in saying:
“We would like to reassure the public that this does not affect the consultation process and people can still make comments on planning applications, which are considered accordingly."
“We are now looking to provide information by responding to specific requests to view third party representations."
“Through-out the course of the application we will still be publishing all statutory and technical consultee responses and further information provided by the applicant, so people have as much information as possible to decide if they want to make any comments on the proposal.
The council said the move was taken to save time and cut down on admin costs — and emphasised the fact that representations are still included in planning committee members’ bundles and all representations are still available to see at the local Town Hall.
We would argue that requesting, copying and accessing letters through the new system is far more time-consuming than ever (which will inevitably come at a cost to the council) and that other potential objectors are now less aware that an application has been met with local opposition.
Cllr David Wilkinson, who served on Bolton Council’s planning committee for 17 years, said the council was “salami-slicing” the planning process.
What is clearly evident is that under this regime, local people will no longer be able to consider the views of other residents in their application. This is good in some respects, but it does not allow a less able people to get to grips with the full process - or those matters observed by others that may affect them...