I serve on one of the city’s two Development Control Committees. This means a formal, regulatory role as part of the Local Planning Authority.
We have a the role of deciding the most contentious development proposals in the city, others being usually determined (ie approved or rejected) by officers on our behalf. Occasionally we visit a site to look at features of what’s proposed by a developer,
but mainly we discuss officers’ reports and hear from proponents, supporters, or objectors to a scheme. And of course the most contentious will attract a great many objectors and sometimes quite a few supporters, on top of the developer and their agents.
This can include local councillors, reisdents, community groups, and others.
The press also attend most meetings and report on the debate and votes taken.
One of the most hotly debated matters to date for me included the Metro Bus scheme across the city, controversially routed through the Feed Bristol site, the centre, and Bedminster’s East Street.
Another was the St Katherine’s Parade redevelopment project in Bedminster, and then the redevelopment of the Whiteladies Picture House, followed by a bioenergy power plant in Avonmouth.
What so many people find hard to believe is how few issues are legally judged to be ‘material considerations’ in this quasi legal decision process, ie just what grounds have to be weighed up to reach the determination, and how many issues have to be ignored as non material…..
It’s also significant that no member of a planning committee should enter the meeting with their mind already made up. We are all meant to have an open mind until we weigh up all statements and reports pro and con any development proposal. We also can’t decide based on what ought (in our or the community’s view) be developed or done to a plce – only on the proposal(s) brought to committee by a developer, whether private or public.
So are we controlling development in the city? It seems more like managing project approval, often with little say or scope to change things for the better.
I’ll say more about some specific development decisions and how they were reached another time….