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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.

High Peak Borough Council’s ‘Standards Committee’ met on 11th March 2009. This committee sets standards of behaviour for Councillors, the procedures which committees are obliged to follow and monitors their compliance with both.

Under Item 4 of the Agenda (link opens PDF), the Committee was asked to endorse a report by the Interim Monitoring Officer proposing a number of revisions to the Protocol for the conduct of the Development Control Committee. 

The proposed changes need looking at carefully to see how they might affect objectors to planning applications. However, we have some time to consider these proposals since, to our great surprise, the committee refused to adopt the revised protocol as it stood. The minutes of the meeting can be found here (link opens PDF).

As you can see [minute 09/28] one of the matters that they wanted reviewed was the 3 minute time limit for speakers at the Development Control Committee. They wanted to consider an extension to 5 minutes. Somehow or other the universal dissatisfaction of the public with the present three minute limit had filtered through to them. Miracles will never cease!

This presents us with an opportunity. A bit of lobbying will ensure that the committee supports an extension of speaking time to 5 minutes at its next meeting. This doesn’t require much effort from anyone who is interested.

What to do? Send an email to,

· your Councillor, copied to:
· the Chief Executive of High Peak [email – simonb@highpeak.gov.uk] and
· possibly members of the Standards Committee

If you notify us that you have done this [keephighpeakgreen@gmail.com] we will be able to assess roughly how much pressure we have brought to bear.

Your email might run along the following lines,

The Minutes of the Standards Committee meeting of 11 March 2009 record that it is calling for a review of the present 3 minute limit on speakers at Development Control Committee meetings with a view to increasing it to 5 minutes [Minute 09/28].

I strongly support this revision which I feel is long overdue. Please would you notify the the Standards Committee of my opinion on this matter. If you felt you could add your own support for this change to mine, I would be very grateful.

[ Name and address]

Try to formulate the email as far as possible in your own words.

A list of all the Councillors and their email addresses can be found at this link.

The members of the Standards Committee are:

Councillors –  T Bingham, Gadd, T Norton, G Platts, Thrane, J Wilkinson,

and –  Mr D Abbot, Mrs G Brooke, Mr P Matthews [Chairman].

The last three names on the list are not Councillors and their email addresses are not available on the Council website.