The proposals appear to have been dictated to the public and then “set in stone”. Was there a genuine consultation?
This isn’t the case. The greenway proposals have already been changed as a result of public feedback and Council continues to provide opportunities for people to engage with us.
The original proposals for Ards and North Down included a feasibility study for a greenway route from Orlock Point to Donaghadee, Newtownards and Helen’s Bay (through part of Clandeboye Estate) Greenway.
As a result of feedback during public consultation and meetings with both residents and landowners, the original network was altered at different locations mainly along the A21 in Comber and between Newtownards and Helen’s Bay and on the A21 between Bangor and Orlock Point.
In relation to the formal planning application process, the Council’s Statement of Community Involvement sets out how the public can get involved across all elements of the Planning process. In relation to dealing with major planning applications such as the greenways, it sets out the requirement for the applicant to undertake Pre-Application Community Consultation prior to submission of the proposal; the details of which can be viewed here: Statement of Community Involvement.
In respect of when the planning application is submitted, it sets out the requirements for advertising in the local press and neighbour notification. Individuals, groups and organisations can comment on a planning application even if they have not been neighbour notified by the Council. In respect of the public commenting on a planning proposal, when a planning officer assesses an application, only certain issues can be considered; these are often referred to as ‘material planning considerations’. Material considerations must be genuine planning considerations.
The basic question is not whether owners and occupiers of neighbouring properties would experience financial or other loss from a particular development, but whether the proposal would unacceptably affect amenities and the existing use of land and buildings that ought to be protected in the public interest. Generally greater weight is attached to issues which are supported by evidence rather than solely by assertion.
The planning application and forthcoming Environmental Statement will also be scrutinised by the statutory consultees, and they may ask for amendments to the scheme to fit with their requirements and legislation and to ensure that all aspects of the proposed development are acceptable in terms of impacts etc.