I would like to explain, in response to Mr Ient’s comments, our decision to hold South Downs National Park Authority Planning Committee Meetings in Midhurst.
The National Park is 1,600km2. Planning applications are time dependent and SDNPA planning meetings can cover applications from anywhere across the National Park. In general, any attempt to group them by location, for example by dealing with applications only from one end of the National Park, could lead to unacceptable delays for applications and interested parties from the other end – as well as journeys twice the length Mr Ient refers to.
We therefore made the decision to hold Planning Committee meetings in Midhurst some time ago, being centrally located within the National Park and therefore offers a reasonable commute from all areas. This is vital not only for people wishing to make representations but also for the committee members who give up their time to travel from across and from outside the National Park to attend the meetings. Midhurst is accessible by regular bus services linking to train stations in Chichester, Petersfield and Pulborough.
Our officers visit every site, sometimes several times, as part of the planning process and our local rangers and liaison officers are also active and engaged with applications. Members of the Planning Committee always visit the site of an application the week before it goes to the Planning Committee meeting to ensure they are familiar with the site and context – something that many other planning authorities do not do.
We were very pleased to see so many members of the Lewes community at our recent planning meeting to discuss Lewes Court House, both those in favour and those against. I believe the members’ discussions clearly demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the site and local issues.
Director of Planning for the South Downs National Park Authority