Jo Swinson MP has called on the First Minister to stop unelected planning officials overruling democratically elected councils.
In a strongly worded letter to Alex Salmond, Jo Swinson MP has criticised the planning appeals system which has allowed a Government Reporter to overrule East Dunbartonshire Council’s rejection of the Kilmardinny development proposal. Ms Swinson sent the First Minister a stack of articles and readers’ letters printed in the Milngavie and Bearsden Herald demonstrating the overwhelming opposition to the development among local people.
In her letter, Jo Swinson argues that the planning appeals system is “deeply undemocratic”, and that Government Reporters should not be able to tell local councils what is best for their communities. She also criticises the system of “planning gain”, which gives Reporters the power to decide how much developers must invest in facilities and infrastructure for the local community. The Reporter Janet McNair has told CALA Management and Stewart Milne Holdings that they must provide £10 million for a new sports centre, £650,000 for road construction and make 10% of the new housing “affordable”, which Ms Swinson argues is not enough to make up for the negative impacts of the development.
Commenting, Jo Swinson said:
“I have received countless letters, emails and phone calls to my office from people in Milngavie and Bearsden who are angry that a decision by our local Councillors can be rejected by an unelected planning official. The Milngavie and Bearsden Herald is also doing an excellent job of supporting local campaigners against the development, which is why I have sent the First Minister a large pile of articles and readers’ letters from the paper to show him just how strongly people feel about this.
“I find it ridiculous that the appeals system should give so much power to a Reporter who is not accountable to the public and does not know what is best for the community. I have called on Alex Salmond to urgently reform this system to put power back in the hands of local people.
“In the meantime, I understand that the Reporter is still deciding whether or not to grant an extension for the Council to negotiate an agreement with the developers. I hope that the Council will stand its ground and refuse to go ahead with proposals which are not in the public interest.”