A planning policy showdown for Wyre

Local parish and town councillors have issued a damning no-confidence message to the leader of Wyre Council.

Monday, 18th August 2014, 7:00 am
Coun Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Borough Council

As the debate over controversial new developments proposed for Garstang and Catterall escalated, the Wyre Area Committee of the Lancashire Association of Parish and Town Councils has made public a sharply worded letter to Wyre Council leader Coun Peter Gibson some days ago.

In a passionate plea for some joined-up thinking on development across the borough, Coun David Sharples, Wyre Area Committee secretary, reveals just how angry and disaffected grass-roots politicians have become.

He says councillors are losing confidence in the council and its senior planning and development officers and feel in many instances town and parish council views are not listened to or are “blatantly ignored”.

A show-down meeting is now planned for Monday between Wyre Area Committee representatives and Coun Gibson and Council Chief Executive Garry Payne.

Meanwhile Coun Gibson replied, saying it was disgraceful to attack council officers when they could not answer back, but admitted communciation could be improved with parish councils.

In his letter Coun Sharples revealed “major unrest” amongst town and parish councillors and officers over Wyre Council’s “apparent lack of a transparent picture of housing needs and a clear plan for how these will be satisfied.”

Coun Sharples, who is a Catterall parish councillor and former mayor of Wyre, blasted the Head of Planning, noted the planning department’s “lack of resources”, condemned the lack of a Local Plan and highlighted the lack of appropriate consultation on plans, with developers leaflet dropping local residents and holding roadshows just days before a planning application is submitted.

In particular the letter called on Coun Gibson and the council’s Chief Exectuive to “take responsibility for sorting out this mess” and noted: “Councillors are losing confidence in Wyre Council and very specificially the senior officers who currently hold the responsibility for planning and development”.

“We cannot understate the strength of feeling, digust and actual despair that exists at the local level about the perceived lack of joined up thinking by Wyre and other agencies,” the letter added.

Coun Gibson said: “I think we can improve the communication with the parish councils and that is part of what we will be discussing at Monday’s meeting. I think sometimes they are not given enough time to comment on planning applications...I want to work with the parish and town councils. I’ve already started that process.”

Coun Gibson was critical of the Wyre Area Committee for going public with its comments saying: “I think first of all it’s quite disgraceful to attack council officers through the press when these officers can’t answer back.

“The Local Plan is not what they claim it to be.”

He again stressed that as far as he was concerned a Local Plan meant “more housing not less”. There was, he said a “presumption to permit” development in the national planning framework.