I’ve been reporting on council planning meetings for more than 30 years, long before the internet and video presentations came along – but the advances in technology seem to have done little to improve the planning process and local democracy based on my recent visit to Warrington Development Management Committee – or planning as we used to call it.
There were three key items on the agenda including the controversial plan involving Warrington Borough Council applying to itself for a Waste Transfer Station on Winwick Road.
From day one local councillors and residents told the council this was the wrong place but still the borough council pressed ahead with the application, desperate to make revenue savings.
The council’s presentation in support of the application didn’t get off to the best of starts as a video presentation by Executive Board member Cllr Judith Guthrie, who was absent from the meeting due to a pre-booked holiday, couldn’t be heard by the audience.
We then had the situation of a council officer having to read her statement from a lap top – but only after having to borrow a pair of reading glasses off local Cllr Mike Hannon, who had already spoken out against the plan! It was comical.
Then, with the council chamber garden door open due to the heat, a dog entered the room, briefly bringing proceedings to a halt as it ran excitedly around the table, before making a quick exit back the way it came! Clearly a dog with common sense as I was already thinking of better ways I could have been spending my time on a hot summer’s evening!
Finally we had the elected members arguing back and to with the council officers over the pros and cons of the Waste Transfer Station, as members of the public were clearly getting more and more hot under the collar, especially when they were not allowed to add any further comments.
Just before a decision was made members asked officers whether they would appeal if the application was refused – the answer a resounding no! Obviously the council wouldn’t take costly legal action against itself!
Add to this member and officer microphones constantly switching themselves off, it certainly didn’t help proceedings run smoothly!
Finally after around 80 minutes councillors voted unanimously to throw out the plan. No surprises there then!
So what next for the much needed Waste Transfer Station – back to the drawing board! One wonders what the cost of this application was to the public purse?
But it certainly wasn’t a victory for common sense and while my comments have no reflection on the elected members of the committee and Chair Tony McCarthy, one couldn’t help thinking back to the entrance of our four-legged friend and a journalist’s dream headline – Planning going to the dogs!