Just over 6 weeks ago, we noticed that the ‘planning applications’ section of High Peak Borough Council’s website was inaccessible. During this time, no one has been able to view the details of planning applications made to the Council via the Internet. All that has been provided by the Borough, and that only in the past couple of weeks, is a list of applications made. Application documents that we have a legitimate expectation to be able to examine in our own time on the web, have simply not been available to us nor any other interested party.

It needs to be stated that this is not the first time that problems with the planning portal have been experienced by the public:  indeed, as recently as January, concerned members of the public related to us how key documents for applications such as the controversial Lidl planning application at Brookfield in Hadfield could not be downloaded. There are many other examples, too many to state here now.

Having made enquiries with Officers and Councillors, it would appear that the explanation being offered is that a web server which hosts the information has broken down, and it is somehow taking all of this time to commission, fund and configure a replacement. Numerous deadlines have been given to the public over the past few weeks, but none of them have been met. Yesterday’s deadline is the latest and veritable final straw.

In an age where the Internet is becomingly increasingly connected to every part of our lives, we feel that the accessibility of such important information is vital – it is simply not good enough to point out that the information is also available at municipal buildings when most people work long hours and cannot access this part of the service.

If HPBC want to belong to the 21st Century, then it is vital that the Internet service is properly maintained 24 hours a day, 7 days a week & 365 days a year.

In the meantime, important information about planning applications is hidden from view and scrutiny. In these circumstances, Keep High Peak Green has already asked the Chair of the Development Control Committee, Councillor David Mellor, to consider postponing the Committee dates for major or contentious planning applications, and further allowing an additional 3 weeks to scrutinise such applications once the server has been restored. We are aware that other people have also made similar representations to their local Councillors.

We ask the Council to give serious consideration to our proposal as we feel that such disregard for public interest allied with a ‘stonewalling’ approach to serious and fundamental concerns about the local planning process cannot go unanswered.