by Jeremy Rowe on 14 June, 2010
Cornwall Council are currently in the process of ‘co-locating’ services at the former NCDC Chamber at Camelford, the idea being that the building could be shared between the One Stop Shop and an office for the police. As part of the ‘Office Accommodation Vision’ this is a broadly sensible idea which could save money and, theoretically, make services more accessible to members of the public.
The catch is that the Chamber – where Planning Committee meetings are currently held – will no longer be large enough to accommodate public meetings as a result of the necessary modifications to the building. One of the suggestions is that Planning meetings would be held at the old Caradon District Council chamber in Liskeard in future (currently the East Planning meetings are alternated between the two venues).
This is nothing more than an inconvenience for Councillors, but my concern is for members of the public who might want to attend a Planning Committee meeting to either support or oppose a particular application. The agendas are currently planned so that, wherever possible, contentious applications from North Cornwall are heard in Camelford and those from South East Cornwall are heard in Liskeard, but if all future meetings are to be held in Liskeard then significant problems are posed for, say, Bude or Launceston residents who may wish to attend to listen or make representations.
When this proposal was originally floated the idea was that some of the money saved would be used to ensure that premises could be hired or modified to enable the Planning Committee to continue to meet in the North Cornwall area. But if this is no longer the case I believe it will be highly detrimental to the exercise of local democracy in the area.
You would think that such a scheme might have been politically directed by the Cabinet, but it seems that this proposal is being pushed ahead with little involvement from elected members, whether key decision makers or local backbench councillors. This is something the administration need to get to grips with quickly, otherwise Planning Committee meetings – the ones that the public are most likely to attend – may be taken out of the reach of a large number of residents.1 Comment