COMMENT: Westwell of Ely

Ely Standard columnist Rosemary Westwell,

Ely Standard columnist Rosemary Westwell, - Credit: Archant

There are an ever-increasing number of occasions when it appears as if our council is trying to cover up what is happening. Of course, this is probably unintentional but the cynics amongst us can’t help thinking that the convoluted wordage of their policies and reports is one of the many tricks employed to keep us in the dark.

Not only are the people of Ely kept in the dark, literally, with the bright idea of dimming or removing lights, but it is difficult to find out what is happening in its ‘reports’.

Take one for the new Local Plan on East Cambs District Council’s website for example: the report on ‘suggested changes to development envelopes’ (areas in villages/towns suitable for added buildings).

In a government’s own planning practice guide it states that ‘consultations should [use] …open, collaborative approaches. Consultation is not just about formal documents and responses. It is an on-going process.’

So why on earth are we paying consultants through the nose to complete reports of over 100 pages like this one, when our comments have no ‘planning status’. In other words, the council can completely ignore our suggestions.

Also, if we wanted our opinions to be included at all, we had to fill in form ‘C’, but if we wanted to comment on something else to do with the Local Plan, we had to fill in form A. How, I ask, does the ordinary person busy trying to earn a living get to the council offices during working hours and get the necessary forms?

Not everyone uses the Internet you know. As I have commented previously, what kind of consultation is that, and how does it equate with the government’s guidelines?

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Another bone I have to pick is that the council gives us a very short time to get our opinion forms in – even stating the exact time and date after which no more will be accepted, when its own dates are so vague: this report related to the council’s proposed changes for its next consultation in ‘summer 2016’ which could have meant anytime and if you judged it by the weather, it could have meant never.

There are apparently no ‘current consultations’, yet the minutes of a local parish council suggest there will be one on the Local Plan between January 10 and February 20 2017. Why isn’t this easily visible on East Cambs District Council’s website?

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