I have received the following email indirectly from Stuart Campbell the chairman of Freshford Parish Council. The email is of importance to Freshford residents who happen to reside in Wiltshire rather than BANES and is therefore published here:
Subject: Planning Representation of Residents in Counties Bordering Freshford.
If someone lives in Wiltshire and is interested in commenting on a B&NES application , then I suppose that they can comment direct to B&NES, but should also ask their district councillor to contact B&NES and support their view. This would certainly be more powerful than expecting B&NES officers to place adequate weight on non-resident comment.
This is a personal view and I think any Wilts resident would be well advised to ask their councillor how to comment effectively to a bordering unitary authority. They could also contact their PC as we refer bordering applications to them (And vice versa), normally in our case to Limpley Stoke and there is nothing to stop a PC in Wilts commenting to B&NES either directly or through us. This happened with the Mill (Westwood PC) but I have no idea how much weight was given to such comments.
Hope this is helpful.
There are number of observations that I am thinking about here. I am going to number them to facilitate discussion, but before I do so there aren't any counties bordering Freshford as parts of Freshford are in more than one county. Unless Freshford is a village that is by definition only in B&NES?
1. First there is the notion of where someone who considers themselves a resident of Freshford lives and the effect that may have on planning decisions. I live a little nearer to the centre of Freshford than Stuart, yet I live in Wiltshire. My postal address is Freshford, Bath etc. My daughter and her family live a few hundred yards from Freshford school where my grandchildren are being educated. Is my daughter and her family not residents of Freshford?
Because we live in Wiltshire does that mean that BANES planning may place lesser weight on our responses to planning applications than people who live in BANES and possibly on the outskirts of Freshford.
2. A village is by definition "a very small town in a country area" whereas a town is by definition a "place with many houses, shops/stores, etc. where people live and work. It is larger than a village but smaller than a city." Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary 7th edition 2005. I think everyone will agree that Freshford is a village. The word "village" is also from Old French and from Latin and refers to belonging to a country house eg. a manor house.
3. Freshford has hamlets: Sharpstone, Park Corner, Woodside, and Staples Hill. The buildings in Staples Hill are less than 80 feet from the county boundary between Wiltshire and Bath and North East Somerset. are we seriously to believe that the planners in the Unitary authority of B&NES will regard and have regarded comments on planning applications from Wiltshire residents as of being of lesser importance than those of rsidents who live in B&NES?
4. Stuart Campbell has been chairman of Freshford Parish Council for many years and should be better acquainted with the manner in which planning decisons are made. Yet although the BBC provides a guide to running a parish council and to taking part in one's local community it does not provide such guidance and the government does not either, or if it does it is not found easily using a Google search.
5. If it is the case that residents of a village that are also residents of another county have a lesser say in the decisions that are made in that village, in this case Freshford Somerset then what may we say about the rights of the former Head of Planning at B&NES Ludek Majer a Czech national? to make major decisions about planning that affect Freshford and surrounding countryside?
6. I can understand Stuart making observations about the planning process that affects us as the complete fiasco of Freshford Mill must have shaken his faith in local democracy. How can it be that such a decision can be made, in spite of the depth of feeling against the development. The planners went entirely against the wishes of the residents of this village whether they reside in B&NES or Wiltshire.
7. It is an anachronism that such concepts of residency should be based on arbitary boundaries that have no or little relevance to the 21st Century and the environmental problems that we face.
8. I suspect that discrimination based on which side of a boundary one lives on is against the European Charter to Safegard Human Rights in Cities as such descrimination is breaking the Principal of Proximity. Or of course maybe that Right is not applicable to villages?
9. Another observation I would like to make is that I don't expect my local parish council (Westwood) to support my views, why should they? They might disagree with my views. All B&NES planning has to do to consider whether a citizen's opinion on a proposal is to be considered with greater care or not is look at a map. Indeed, on the contrary, what if the opinion on a proposal came from an eminent authority who is not a resident? Often a parish council may commision a report from some expert to support objections to a planning application. Or is this just a case of being snowed under with paperwork, otherwise, why can't any Tom Dick or Harry submit their opinion on a proposal. What should count is the veracity of the argument, for or against the proposal, not whether the objector lives here or there. This does not diminish the argument of someone who because of where they live will be more affected by planning being approved or not, as the veracity of their argument may be greater because they perceive the effects of the planning application if its approved or rejected.