Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan has given her backing to a petition to allow parish councils the right to appeal planning decisions.
Presently, councils such as Northumberland County Council, do not allow parish councils to have a statutory voice in the planning process, and a national petition has been set up, calling for a debate on the proposal.
Under the current system, if the council refuses a planning application, the applicant can appeal that decision, but if the council agrees to an application, there is no right of appeal.
Mrs Trevelyan said: “There is a balance to be struck, and I do not want to see every development blocked, but where there are reasonable grounds to appeal a decision, the parish council is the right body to do so, on behalf of the local residents it represents.”
She added: “It is right that local communities’ views should be taken into account, and they should have a means of appeal should things go wrong. Parish councils from across Northumberland have been in contact with me this week, asking me to support the petition, and I am very happy to do so.”
Councillor Peter Jackson, Leader of the Conservative Group on Northumberland County Council, is also a supporter of the proposal.
He said: “My Conservative Group was strongly against the recent changes to the planning system at Northumberland County Council. All forms of local influence and involvement were taken away at a stroke. It is disgraceful that the views of parish and town councils are not taken seriously in the making of planning decisions.
“Increasingly these important decisions, which often affect people’s way of life, are made without justification or any local accountability behind closed doors in County Hall. No longer can local people even attend the planning meetings without taking time off work as all meetings are now centralised, being held in County Hall, Morpeth only and then during weekday afternoons.
“This current situation cannot go on and Northumberland Conservatives are pledged to bring back area-based planning committees and to bring back the local influence of the parish and town councils. This is yet another reason for change in next year’s County Council elections ”
In the past, an objection to Northumberland County Council from a parish or town council would automatically mean an application would be referred to committee for a decision taken by elected councillors. That no longer happens, meaning council officers are able to make decisions even if a parish council objects.
The petition requires 100,000 signatures in order to be considered for a debate in Parliament. Mrs Trevelyan has signed the petition, and has pledged to speak in the debate should it be successful.
The petition can be found here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/110489