What’s the point of such ‘consultation’?

EDITOR – Your front-page ‘Fears for Wolds’ article highlights concerns for the district council’s future vision of the Lincolnshire countryside.

Claxby residents are rightly mystified by the decision to allow ten holiday chalets in this remote and poorly accessed spot.

However, of even greater concern than the decision itself is the way in which it was reached.

The conduct of the planning committee meeting at which permission was granted should concern all who hope that public consultation has a place in local democracy.

The facts of the meeting are simple:

1. In statements at the meeting and in written comments, Claxby residents presented a strong case for refusing the application based on local and national planning policy.

2. The case made by the planning officer for granting the application was weak, contradictory and incomplete.

3. Those members of the planning committee who spoke either made errors of interpretation of policy or expressed only personal opinions, the latter focussing solely on how well the fisheries’ neatly clipped grass contrasted with the adjacent fields (where useful things like food and renewable energy sources grow).

Claxby residents pay council tax and vote. The failure to respond in any way to their legitimate concerns was, at least, disrespectful. For some it hints at contempt.

All of which strongly supports the commonly held view of public consultation as frequently practised by all levels of government and best summarised as a three-step approach – Step 1: decide what to do; Step 2: consult; Step 3: ignore step 2.

I note that Wold View Fisheries is retrospectively applying for a 50 per cent increase in the permitted number of visitors.

The application has the benefit of a planning officer’s ‘pre-application advice’. Let’s hope the decision hasn’t already been made.

Philip Raven

Pelham Top Farm, Claxby Moor