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News Bulletin: December 2004

At their full Council meeting in October, Hart District Council considered a proposal which would have removed the ability of Elected Parish Councils effectively to represent their Electors on Planning Applications. The current system is that if there is a difference of opinion between the Case Officer at Hart and the Parish Council concerned, the application is decided by Hart’s Planning Committee. This provides an essential safety valve, ensures that Electors’ views are properly represented and allows applications to be decided in an open and transparent fashion. The proposed change would have removed this procedure, taken away the right of Electors to speak at Committee and have meant that, even in cases of disagreement, applications would be decided by Officers. Twelve Parish Councils strongly objected to this proposal, which we all regarded as an attack on democracy. Following an emergency meeting, a number of Parish Councils, including our own, asked questions at the Hart full Council meeting. The result was that the proposal was deferred without a review date. We have been promised that there will be proper advance consultation if a new proposal emerges, in which case we aim to make sure that effective consultation does actually happen. As an example of the way the changed process would work, it seems clear that the recent series of applications for a new development next to The Holt would have been approved by Officers alone at a higher number of units than was eventually approved, as the application would not have been put to Committee.

The new dentists’ surgery is now open and inevitably there have been a number of comments to us, both favourable and unfavourable, about the new building. Design, after all, can be a very subjective topic! The site of the old Woodland Café had remained an empty piece of derelict waste-ground for some twenty years, largely because all those who considered developing it decided the site would be difficult to develop economically and so went off to look for an easier site elsewhere. Their main reason was that the restricted and triangular shape of the site made it very difficult for them to design a building that would meet their commercial needs and fit in reasonably with the surroundings. So the planning application process for the new dentists’ surgery was far from an easy one. The new building certainly dominates the 1960s building next door and perhaps that can’t be a bad thing! It’s certainly prominent but as the site had been empty since 1984 it would take us time to become accustomed to any new building. However Hook has an essential local service, provided by an existing local business, available now!

The Parish Council Office will be closed from 1pm on Friday 24th December until 9am on Tuesday 4th January for the Christmas and New Year break. In case of emergency there will be a contact telephone number on the answering machine.

Formal notice of an election to fill the vacant seat on the Parish Council will be posted on Thursday 9th December and candidates need to return their nomination forms to Hart by Friday 17th December. If the seat is contested, the election will be on Thursday 20th January. If you are considering standing do please drop into the Parish Council office or give one of us a ring for a chat.

Antony Hunter – Parish Councillor