The Battle Neighbourhood Plan ‘yes’ campaign showed how cross-party cooperation can be productive.

From: Bernard Brown, Netherfield Road, Battle

Friday, 24th September 2021, 10:28 am
Battle Neighbourhood Plan. (photo by Margaret Howell)

Last Thursday the people of the Parish of Battle, including Telham and Netherfield, voted in a referendum to adopt the Neighbourhood Plan. The YES campaign was supported by all political parties and none. It is well known that I am a Conservative but it was really good to work with our LibDem, Green and Labour colleagues to deliver an overwhelming YES vote. A great result for the future of Battle.

This was such a different scenario to the spat between the Rother Alliance and the Conservative opposition over the failures of the Rother Planning Department. Let me be clear I was not a fan of the planning department under the previous administration.

When the Alliance administration came in to effect after the 2019 election it promised to change and improve the service.

As we know this did not come to pass. Change happened, improvements did not. Councillors made decisions against officer advice resulting in significant issues and financial costs to the council. But something else happened. Many middle ranking, competent, efficient officers saw a breakdown in relationships between senior officers and senior elected councillors. Cllr Vine-Hall says he has spent 18 frustrating months trying to improve things.

I was part of the cohort who was interviewed by IESE consultants with an undertaking that I would be given sight of the report. This has not happened. I will not join in on the wholesale condemnation of planning officers performance. I would like to commend some but I am not sure that would be to their individual advantage.

There is no doubt that performance had degenerated to the point where ‘Capita Outsourcing’ is regarded as a good move forward.

The facts are pre-planning advice (not a free service) was stopped; validations were delayed; decisions were delayed and planning officer turnover escalated. The responsibility for this has to lie at the door of those who have overseen the rapid decline.

Should not the current administration just admit that due to their style they are primarily responsible for the rapid reduction in service standards?

The people of Rother really do deserve better, yes I agree, even better than pre 2019.

The Battle Neighbourhood Plan YES campaign showed how cross party cooperation can be productive.

Perhaps on Planning the Rother Alliance should learn from this.

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