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Hastings Revised Proposed Submission Development, Management Plan Publication Stage Representation Form

Planning matters

With the Tuesday 22 April deadline to comment on Shaping Hastings, the Hastings Development Management Plan fast approaching, local resident, Naomi Robinson, organised a support session at the White Rock Hotel to help people navigate the complicated forms, both in paper format and online. HOT’s Zelly Restorick went along to talk to people and to tackle the procedure herself.

Do you know about the Revised Proposed Submission Development Management Plan? It’s the plan for the town’s future growth and development – and it would seem that the feedback procedure for residents is a convoluted and complicated process, unlikely to comply with Plain English standards and accessibility guidelines.

Personally, I found the process of commenting on the Plan made me wilt like a waterless flower. The immense amount of paperwork and the number of developments were overwhelming. The paper version of the form was very hard to understand, seemed unnecessarily complicated and filled with jargon and terms I am unfamiliar with. Others attending suggested I tackle the on-line version instead, but this seemed to me to be equally overwhelming in its content and navigation – and I’m someone with degree level education, who reads and writes everyday.

For example, here is the basic question that needs to be answered: 6. Do you consider the Development Management Plan to a) be legally compliant b) be sound or c) comply with the duty to co-operate? This is the first challenge – to understand what these terms mean. One can read the words, but they must be understood in the specific context of law and planning. And how many of us have this knowledge and understanding? The only way one could enter this arena, on a genuinely equal basis, would be to hire professionals in the specific fields of expertise. And how many people have the money to do this?

It would appear that the system is fundamentally designed to exclude.

Naomi Robinson wonders why the process isn’t more simple, clear and easy to complete.

“I organised this meeting as I’ve spoken to a lot of people who are not happy when they hear about what’s planned for the buildings and green spaces in this area – and yet the process for them to air their concerns is very complex. This means that people don’t object and then end up with unsuitable developments on their doorsteps. It’s not a democratic process, it’s not an accessible process and I think the Council is failing its residents, both in its attitude to planning and in the way it fails to engage its residents.

“Why not have a simple, clear App, where people sign in, say where they live, see where the developments are within certain distances of where they live, say ‘support’ or ‘object’, are asked for their reasons and click ‘submit’? The current system is completely off-putting, filled with jargon… even getting to the form is prohibitive. In this day and age, there are ways to make this process effective and accessible.”

Have you got anything to say about the process from your own experience? It would be interesting to know what you think.

Please feel free to comment below.

Here are some comments on the planning process and the bureaucratic procedure from the people who attended Naomi’s support session.

“The procedure is designed not to inform people. Although the Council have the exhibitions, they’re not well publicised. The system’s not working. They should inform people properly. It’s all ‘planning speak’ – and that’s how they get these things through. There has to be a better way – a more democratic system. The atmosphere of the townscape will be wrecked, destroying aspects of different views.” (Maureen)

“Destined to confuse – and it’s disenfranchising the majority of people in this town, who don’t understand Council speak and planning technology.” (Paddy)

“I’ve come because I’ve tried to go to every meeting connected with the local plan as it’s so important to the future of the Borough. There are some plans/proposals that have to be strongly objected to. I feel I have to do what I can to get rid of these unacceptable proposals. It’s chaotic. I don’t know anyone who has a plan in two parts. The Council should long ago have seen they’ve made a mistake. This process [of objecting] is too complicated and elongated.” (Pam)

“I’m here because I’m frustrated with the ability of developers to overbuild and the fact that Council officers – rather than supporting a long term vision – will always capitulate to the needs of the developers. The job of the developer is to make as much profit and as much capacity as possible. The Council should demand much more in terms of build quality. It’s the cravenness of the Council officers that upsets me – that they don’t put up a fight. And this process of objecting is impossible, absolutely impossible. I’ve been involved for years and I find it impossible to navigate.” (Chris)

“I came to help Naomi. I’ve submitted comments to support the bike routes in the town, but I was unaware til now how many developments there are to comment on. It’s overwhelming. There are a lot of affordable housing developments, which I support, as there is a need for housing. But my concern is that it’s shoddily designed in a not very environmentally-aware and sustainable way or in keeping with local architecture. And the process? I’m a web designer and I think this online consultation is hard to navigate. I’ve not found it easy to use. It’s challenging and fails on a level of accessibility.” (Sarah)

“I found that filling in the form threw me into a panic. I know what I object to, but I don’t see how to fit it into this format. It’s confused me a lot. I feel I should have been informed about the development that’s a stone’s throw from where I live. I worry about the convent land and the way the Council always seems to go for the big money. I know the developers’ job is to make money, but it’s the Council’s job to protect this place for the future.” (Sally)

“I’m here because I think the Council are being deceitful and obstructive. If this is supposed to be a consultation, they couldn’t have been any more devious if they’d hidden in a bunker with their fingers in their ears. The process is hard to understand and designed to keep people away from commenting.” (Kat)

Overheard comment: “If they were trying to sell us something, this language wouldn’t be used.”

Posted 11:17 Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014 In: Home Ground

9 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Martin Newbold

    I have to add before someone else does we took the matter to Cabinet October 2012 and started up two weeks before the end of the 2012 consultation.

    Comment by Martin Newbold — Monday, Jun 2, 2014 @ 23:44

  2. Martin Newbold

    I to was disappointed with the DMP hearing it was from 2010… 2014.

    I only heard about the DMP process first in October 2012. Our group/organization got started after realizing there was poor choices and that no one was doing anything. We started our own consultation-system for Speckled Wood. The rest is History. To-date some 3560 objections have been raised since 2012. A breakdown of this is here:http://friendsofspeckledwoodmanagementtrust.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/update-on-consultation.html.

    You can add to these responses here : http://www.speckledwood.org.uk/en/

    We are currently involved with some detailed land registry investigations on our site which are bringing our obscure information. This is with our Solicitor.

    We have written a Freedom of Information Request to the Council which was asking what the council knew about Speckled wood. This has just come back: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i_am_writting_to_request_all_inf

    I have written to thee council and am disappointed that they are using a 2009 Desktop Report A01 available on this link to send to the Inspector. This is very disappointing. The Trust & Charity members have been working hard to register species in Speckled Wood and via iRecord to the Sussex Bio Centre . It is Unfortunate the council does not subscribe to Sussex Bio Centre. Perhaps they don’t want to see the up-to-date information . We have added 150 Species in less than a month. The Woodland is totally different than it was in 2009. The site is becoming a sanctuary to fleeing species that are being turned of out of their homes by planning legislation of green sites .

    I understand Mr Price has written a FOI to obtain the number of responses for the DMP. The information returned was unfathomable to me and I have written my own request asking for more detail:https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/please_could_you_tell_me_how_man/new

    I think I have already made my feelings clear about the Development Management Plan in my Letter to Hastings Observer Editor:
    http://www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/news/letters/plan-has-been-undemocratic-1-6034100

    Please keep writing your informed articles. We have shared it on our pages.

    Comment by Martin Newbold — Monday, Jun 2, 2014 @ 23:32

  3. david cowan

    what i wanted was a forum to to let me and other people share ‘idea’s’ about the town and the way its changing. Not a bureaucratic process to cover new zones or development areas, but also ideas about improving the seafront, the town centre especially Claremont area and of course empty buildings and trying to accommodate the imagination this town possesses in bucket loads…shame

    Comment by david cowan — Monday, Apr 28, 2014 @ 18:14

  4. paddy stephenson

    Several residents HAVE complained to the planning officers, our councillors and our MP and the response is less than encouraging. In fact to date not one response has been received from any Councillor. And neither does it appear that any Councillor has submitted their comments on this latest consultation.

    The responses received back from the planning department have again been loaded with incomprehensible council speak/planning terms. This council will not budge from their opinion that all is well. Their perspective ‘all is well’ suits their means to an end very nicely indeed – the fewer who respond means that the council can confidently proceed with their mantra that we all had time to object and we didn’t so we must therefore be expressing approval of their plans.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. As one of the Robsack Campaign Group I have yet again be asked to assist a resident with their submission. This is from a literate, educated mature person who has a responsible job. And yet they could not navigate the system with any confidence.

    It is so very sad that so many willing participants who cannot pass the first hurdle have been excluded from this consultation. A shocking indictment of this council’s approach to democracy in this town.

    A Freedom of Information Request last year revealed that a total of only 90 submissions were received from this town. This includes residents, organisations and outside groups. Surely this illustrates the unfairness of the entire consultation procedures?

    Comment by paddy stephenson — Friday, Apr 18, 2014 @ 09:51

  5. Eva Cat

    Don’t forget this is the last stage in a process that has gone on for over two years – the first stages were general, the later ones are more specific. Those incomprehensible, unanswerable questions about whether it’s legal and whether it complies with regulation whatever it is are questions the council has to ask, in precisely those words. If they don’t, the plan can’t be approved by the inspector. In fairness, the consultation has to be pretty complicated, because comments have to be on something specific in the plan, objecting to a specific proposal. And the plan is huge, with hundreds of different kinds of proposals on policies, specific sites, and so on.

    Basically, the planning system is ***ked nationally: it’s difficult to understand, tied up with endless regulations and incomprehensible requirements, and full of constraints on local authorities about what they can and can’t do, and exactly how they can and can’t do it. The ConDem government promised to make the planning system simpler, easier to understand, and with more local control. What they’ve done is exactly the opposite.

    Comment by Eva Cat — Thursday, Apr 17, 2014 @ 21:01

  6. Zelly Restorick

    Thanks for your comment, Paul. I’m going to contact the Council and ask them for feedback on what has been said, giving them a chance to respond. Zelly

    Comment by Zelly Restorick — Thursday, Apr 17, 2014 @ 09:48

  7. paul oxborrow

    I thought about commenting but gave up after much wasted time looking through the council’s website. I couldn’t actually find how to comment, despite wading through pages of information. I think the whole process is designed to discourage comment and involvement, putting people off by making it as complex as possible. Why does the Council always seem to be on the side of the developers, treating residents as hindrances and annoyances? This is while the character of the town is slowly being eroded before our eyes – largely so that developers can make money!

    Comment by paul oxborrow — Thursday, Apr 17, 2014 @ 09:13

  8. Zelly Restorick

    Thank you for commenting, DAR. I know that the local Council are tied in with the country’s [and the European] bureaucratic process with which they need to comply. However, this does not mean it is okay, but a clear indication that the system needs changing to become more inclusive and not exclusive. Thank you for getting involved – and make sure your voice is heard by completing the consultation documents before April 22nd! Zelly

    Comment by Zelly Restorick — Thursday, Apr 17, 2014 @ 08:13

  9. DAR

    Spot on. I completely agree with the sentiments expressed here – from the contributor to the “people’s comments”. This town (and the whole region) is now over-developed already, and these plans for the future will only create more strains on general demands for water, energy, public services etc. as well as more traffic congestion & air pollution, specifically along The Ridge (courtesy of the “Road To Nowhere” aka the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road). And public consultation is deliberately obscurantist in order to favour development, as many have commented here.

    Comment by DAR — Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014 @ 19:37

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