Anger at Kirklees plans to cut down on speakers

BAD IDEA Peter Morgan and fellow campaigners by land in Lady Heton Drive, which is due to be built on.
BAD IDEA Peter Morgan and fellow campaigners by land in Lady Heton Drive, which is due to be built on.

Campaign groups have branded plans to limit the number of public speakers at planning committees as undemocratic.

Kirklees Council were due to discuss ideas to overhaul the planning committee system at a full council meeting last night, but the debate was deferred.

But groups campaigning against housing developments in North Kirklees feel the plans should be dropped altogether.

Mark Eastwood, of the Chidswell Action Group, said: “We have experience with councillors and they don’t like objections.

“They see this as a way of cutting down on people who have got genuine concerns about over-development in their areas.

“Everyone should be given a voice – we live in a democracy. Councillors should be opening it up, not reducing it. They want an easy ride and we are vehemently opposed.”

Ideas for debate would include permitting one speaker for and against for five minutes each; agreeing a maximum number of speakers, potentially up to five for and five against, and allowing them to speak for three minutes; or continuing with the current arrangement.

Peter Morgan, of Mirfield’s Lady Heton Action Group, said the proposals were in direct contradiction to government policy, which suggests council’s should be engaging more with residents.

“The next step will not be accepting residents objections at all,” he added.

All neighbouring councils allow just one person to speak for and one against planning applications, apart from Barnsley which permits two speakers for and against.

Coun Steve Hall, Cabinet member for planning and highways, said the idea is to speed up the process.

“Inevitably when there is a lot of opposition, and even support, people repeat the same thing so we want to trim it down,” he added.