Sainsbury’s application goes to planning committee this Wednesday 3rd April

The Sainsbury’s / Wilmer Place, Planning Application goes to committee this Wednesday. Unfortunately, the planning officer has recommended approval (you can view or download the council report here). The recommendation for approval is largely due to a ‘value judgement’ that the benefits of the development outweigh the negative impacts.

Consequently, the Councillors on the committee, having considered all the relevant facts, can quite legitimately come to a different view: i.e. that the negligible benefits of the development do not outweigh the significant negative impacts.  This is what we are hoping they will do.

Next Steps

We have people preparing short presentations to the committee on why they should reject the application. These presentations will be very short, as the total time for objectors is 5 minutes shared between all speakers (we are asking people not to register to speak, as the more people who register to speak, the less time each speaker gets: the three speakers already registered will have just one minute 40 seconds each).

However, the good news is we have the backing of two local councillors who will be speaking in opposition (and they have five minutes each), so we are confident that we will get most of our points across.

We will also be submitting details of our on-line petition, which has attracted over 3,000 names in two weeks. If you can please help promote the petition by email, tweet, text message etc.

We will be submitting the petition to the council for 9am Tuesday morning, so the more people who sign it before then the more it demonstrates the strength of local feeling. The petition can be signed here.

Attending the committee

The ‘easy’ thing for the councillors on the committee to do is to ‘nod through’ the application on the basis of the officer’s report. We are asking them to be brave and exercise their own judgement and reject the application.

It is very important that we show the Councillors that if they make the right decision it is one that is widely supported by the community. The petition is one way in which we can show that support, a further way is for us to attend the committee on Wednesday evening.

We are asking people to attend and observe the proceedings of the committee. This is not a ‘lobby’ or a protest, but citizens showing an active interest in the committee reaching a decision that is both compliant with planning rules and meets the needs of the community. We are seeking to encourage the Councillors to exercise their own judgement, it will be easier for them to do that if they know the community cares deeply about the issues.

The committee will be held in the council chambers and so long as we are orderly, there is room for a large public presence. The power of our presence will be in that we are putting the quasi-judicial process under public scrutiny. In other words we will need to sit in dignified silence as the developer and the officer give their views to the committee.

If you can do that, then please come along. The committee starts at 6.30pm prompt, so it would be good to get to the town hall for 6.15pm. The meeting is in the Council Chamber at the Town Hall Mare Street. If you can attend, please register here, so that we have some idea of the number.

What happens if the council approves the application?

With the officers recommending approval, there is a real risk that this application will be approved. There is no formal appeals process for objectors. However, it is possible, in certain limited circumstances, to challenge an inappropriate decision by way of Judicial Review. This however is both expensive and if we were unsuccessful, we would have to pay not just our costs but also those of the Council. It is therefore not a matter to be entered into lightly.

If the decision goes the wrong way, we will be asking our legal experts to look at it to see if it is susceptible to challenge by way of Judicial Review.

Many thanks for your support to date.

This is crunch time, so please do email people to alert them of the situation, call a few friends and invite them to join us at the Town Hall on Wednesday, blog and tweet about this. In particular, please do encourage people to sign the petition.

Thanks again. 

Whatever happens on Wednesday, we have shown that our community can come together and organise over issues that we care about. We are a force to reckon with and that is something we should be proud of.