Lewes Forum thread

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Peter Gardiners 'fantasy world of planning'

On 3 Nov 2008 at 9:00pm Geoff wrote:
Ben, you are obviously not as impartial as you claim to be. Are you a Lib Dem supporter by any chance?
If you read all of the previous thread properly you will notice that your claims about what Councillors can and cannot do, may fall in line with what Cllr Gardiner said, but do not fall in line with Planning Law, the published LDC Code of Conduct for Councillors on the Planning Commitee, the written advice of the LDC District Solicitor, Government advice on Councillor Conduct, and of course the view of the LDC planning officers' professional body, the RTPI, as detailed on the BBC programme.
What special advice are you relying upon, that supports Cllr Gardiner, and his undemocratic view that breaches all known legal advice, by disuading his fellow Councillors from even listening to members of the public before planning meetings, or even meeting with them somewhere appropriate, such as a public meeting?
I would love to know, as it is Cllr Gardiners rather illogical view, that is distorting planning decisions, causing a series of serious documented mistakes (that I notice you do not acknowledge) that is actually putting decisions at risk.
On 3 Nov 2008 at 10:08pm Weasel Warrior wrote:
Go Geoff, go Geoff - Ben STOP WHINING!!
On 3 Nov 2008 at 11:41pm Gentleman Jim wrote:
Why don't you all stop whining and do something useful with your lives!!!! None of you are impartial....and planning isn't that interesting.
On 4 Nov 2008 at 12:10am Sashka wrote:
Gentleman Jim, you might feel a little differently if you were one of the people being negatively affected by all the crap thats going on. If you want to talk about something trivial, just pop down one of our many lovely coffee shops, and talk about Kumquat Jam recipes, or why Martin Elliot is misunderstood.
On 4 Nov 2008 at 1:32am DArtagnion wrote:
Touche Sashka
On 4 Nov 2008 at 11:17am Merlin Milner wrote:
As a Town Councillor on the LTC planning committee I listen to all views. However I have to look at the applications purely on planning grounds, since they are generally the only means of determining the validity of the application. There are many schemes that I have seen that I personally find hideous and inappropriate, however in planning law it is often difficult to be against them (frustrating), but we do voice our concerns / objections if the committee agrees to it. At the LTC planning committee we can reflect residents views even if they are not direct planning infringements. Our comments then go to the planning authority at LDC.
Come to our meetings, we even have tea and biscuits.
On 4 Nov 2008 at 11:35am Geoff wrote:
Merlin, nice to see that Lewes Town Council are doing things properly, although as the Town Council is not making any decisions, and its views are regularly ignored, and even omitted from planning reports, you will know how us fellow residents feel! Do you know why Cllr Gardiner has been advising everyone incorrectly?
On 4 Nov 2008 at 11:41am Lewes Laugher wrote:
Good post Geoff. BEN - you're not usually so slow if giving us the benefit of your objective opinion.
On 4 Nov 2008 at 11:52am Town centre Resident wrote:
I'd give everyone my impartial opinion of Cllr Gardiner, and what seems to be an entire committee worth of gullable Councillors who have allowed themselves to be controlled by his silly behaviour. But I had better not.
On 4 Nov 2008 at 11:56am I dont live in lewes anymore wrote:
Oh do... Please do and don't hold back.
On 4 Nov 2008 at 12:15pm sashka wrote:
If Cllr Gardiner has been given the wrong advice, and followed it without checking, then he is not only an idiot but so is everyone else who has believed this rubbish. I expect the Councillors might be furious behing the scenes, but publicly trying to distract everyone from how bad this is by trying to divert everyone away from the actual legislation. If I want to sit down for 15minutes with my Councillor (like the developers and other consultees already do!) and draw attention to my concerns, then I can.
On 4 Nov 2008 at 12:18pm Town centre resident wrote:
Well it is probably very similar to what Jonothan Ross's agent said, about a week ago, and probably also very similar to what Cllr Gardiner said when he saw the programme, and realised he had been busted, which Ben, he has been.
On 4 Nov 2008 at 12:25pm Local wrote:
Charles Style of Angel Property (and/or his representatives) sit down regularly with officers and members of LDC to discuss (including Cllr Gardiner) his long-awaited Phoenix application at the 'North Street Vision' technical group meetings (see LDC website). They go into a great deal of detail about the proposed application and give a lot of helpful advice on how to make it acceptable. I suppose the get-out clause here for Gardiner is that there is as yet no planning application, though it is difficult to see the difference in principle.
On 4 Nov 2008 at 12:35pm Gentleman Jim wrote:
Well Sashka as a Lewes resident apparently I am!!! But of course since I disagree with you and the other reactionary NIMBYs on this forum I'm sure that invalidates my views.
I have to say though that I haven't noticed all these skyscrapers that you all waffle on about. Magical Merlin even seems to be saying that no-one even attends the town council's planning meetings.
Could it be that some posters here are just self-appointed 'experts' looking for the next bandwagon and/or scapegoat? Surely not!
On 4 Nov 2008 at 12:58pm Sashka wrote:
Gentleman Jim,
Who said anything about skyscrapers? You obviously don't know anything about planning, or the process, because if you did, you would know more about LTC's role, and why it is not the same as that of LDC. So do you support Cllr Gardiner breaking planning rules, even if you are not worried about the town? That is exactly the undemocratic arrogance that is annoying everyone. It is OK for you, and your view, but what about those of a different opinion? How would you feel if it didn't work in your favour? The bias is affecting everything from an illegally demolished Listed wall in East St car park, to massive development of a flood plain. I suggest you go talk to some of the residents affected by all this, and find out exactly what is going on, since you clearly don't know. Posters are hardly the crux of the arguement are they? And I have noticed that LDC are yet to take Jenny Mumford to court as they promised. Do you think they it might be because they were wrong, and acted improperly?
On 4 Nov 2008 at 1:06pm Sashka wrote:
Local, you are quite right to point out the hypocrisy of what is going on. There is no get out though. If Councillor Gardiner said "I love this proposal, I would definitely vote for it" having met with Style, it would be just as bad as if he said "this is awful, I could never vote for anything proposed on this site" after meeting a resident. Meeting with a developer, or a resident, does not bias any application, which is why the documents Geoff cites, support the legality of the very communication, that Peter Gardiner has been preventing.
Rumour has it that Mr Gardiner does want to allow Charles Style something, which of course is an inappropriate opinion to have at this stage, and which he shouldn't have voiced.
On 4 Nov 2008 at 1:16pm Local wrote:
Sashka - I assume that if there is a record of Cllr Gardiner suggesting that he has an opinion about the merits of Mr Style's proposals this could be put to LDC when an eventual application comes up for consideration. Cllr Gardiner would, presumably, have disqualified himself from being part of the decision-making process and would have to play no part in the decision.
On 4 Nov 2008 at 1:44pm sashka wrote:
Well it will be interesting to see if Cllr Gardiner, still considers himself to be a suitable PAC member for this application, or indeed any other.
On 4 Nov 2008 at 3:00pm Frank Keys wrote:
Sashka said:
"Rumour has it that Mr Gardiner does want to allow Charles Style something, which of course is an inappropriate opinion to have at this stage, and which he shouldn't have voiced."
If its a rumour, did he voice it? Provide some evidence or jog on. While your at it could you point out all the massive developments in Lewes which I have completely missed. Having also lived in Crawley, I think there is a bit of a difference between the two towns and the NIMBY campaign discredited themselves with this massive exaggeration. Have you looked at the development in the rest of the District and realised how protected Lewes is compared to the other towns?
On 4 Nov 2008 at 3:18pm Local wrote:
Frank Keys: 'Have you looked at the development in the rest of the District and realised how protected Lewes is compared to the other towns?'
And you keep it that way by staying alert and raising your voice. Don't let's get complacent Mr Keys.
On 4 Nov 2008 at 3:38pm Gentleman Jim wrote:
It's all very well and good raising your voice Mr Local, but seeing conspiracies everywhere and taking rumour as fact can be very dangerous. As can presuming that you alone speak 'fact' and all others are necessarily wrong.
The only 'arrogance' I can see here Sashka is your belief that you are some sort of crusader against our council. It seems to me that there has been little development in Lewes, and that the most damaging structures went up a long time ago (Clifford Dann building on School Hill for instance).
Also, believe it or not, some of us actually need somewhere to live and would like to see more affordable housing in the town.
On 4 Nov 2008 at 3:45pm Local wrote:
'... some of us actually need somewhere to live and would like to see more affordable housing in the town.' Quite agree Mr Jim. But not on a flood plain eh? And that's not a rumour.
On 4 Nov 2008 at 6:40pm I dont live in lewes anymore wrote:
Do you think that if Clr P. Gardener was forced to live in an area known to flood it might encourage a different mindset?
On 5 Nov 2008 at 12:39am Spinster Of This Parish wrote:
Lets take the Pantworks for instance,
Cehapest "affordable" studio flat was £189,950.
As local "keyworkers" could not be found within Lewes district, the "local connection criteria was/has been opened up to people living in London or Brigthon.
How bloody sad is that?
A teacher in London can officially "trump" a local worker? As far as I'm concerned, anyone that works in Lewes is a keyworker
On 5 Nov 2008 at 1:00am sashka wrote:
Frank Keys et al. Do feel free to ask Cllr Gardiner. I would be interested to see if he will deny this so called 'rumour' . In fact I would be interested to know if he will even speak to you about Planning, since he has told everyone else that they shouldn't. Did you find out what it says in the Code of Conduct about this issue, before you made your posts?
Several people above should find out a bit more about the town they are living in, and its planning history before they mjake personal pronouncements about its lack of planning cock-ups, and recent questionable planning practices. What on earth has the NIMBY cliche got to do with anything? When have I said I don't want development, or striking modern architecture? You need to stick to the facts.
What I do know is that Lewes is supposed to be very heavily protected by Conservation policies, because unlike Crawley it is officially acknowledged as one of the most important towns in the Country. Did you know that? We have special legislation that is supposed to restrict even painting your front door. Have you ever heard of our planners taking any notice of that? Our planners didn't even get permission to demolish a Council owned Listed wall in East St, and i would like to see some of the people above defending that. Cllr Gardiner was asked by one resident to explain what was going on, and hasn't heard from him since. How would you feel if it was a wall at the bottom of YOUR garden?
You also seem to have little knowledge of what planning ideas residents have protected the town from over the past 40 or so years, including proposed demolition of vast areas of listed buildings, preventing a supermarket and housing on the railway land, and a dual carriageway next to the castle. These 'Crusaders' have done you a massive favour, you should perhaps be acknowledging their efforts.. Perhaps you are also unaware that there were some 'unplanned staff changes' in LDC in the 80's after the 'town square' outside Superdrug shrank into a rectangle. There are many very worrying examples of recent planning cock ups that get listed on this forum every now and then, so perhaps you should investigate them, and let us all know what you think, when you have found out the facts?
Why should a tax payer wanting legal procedures to be followed correctly, be a crusader? Do you feel that Cllr Gardiner should be allowed to misadvise people about other issues too?
I don't think Lewes is as anything like Crawley, or anywhere else for that matter, but this thread is about Councillor Gardiner misleading fellow Councillors about being allowed to talk to their electorate, and ensuring that the planning process is followed properly. If the problem is resolved, and correct procedure results in big developments, so be it.
The main point here is that some people above are confusing the issue of legal process, with their personal opinions about what is or isn't a good development. There are plenty of places around Lewes to build great buildings, including affordable ones, but we will never get the quality the town deserves if people like Cllr Gardiner try to silence the views of residents who are actually affected by these developments.
On 5 Nov 2008 at 11:18am Cllr P Gardiner wrote:
Ben, where are you? You're supposed to get me out of this.
On 5 Nov 2008 at 11:38am Geoff wrote:
Hopefully Ben is reading up his Planning Law and recovering from the understandable shock that his elected representatives haven't read their own Code of Conduct.
On 7 Nov 2008 at 2:44pm Ben wrote:
To be honest Geoff, I'm just fed up of having to repeat myself to you and others. If you can't read what I have actually written without imagining that I have said all sorts of other things too, that's your problem.
In fact, please read all of my posts on this subject again now. Look for the bit where I make - as you accuse me of making - "claims about what Councillors can and cannot do". When you have failed to find it, come back and apologise to me. Deal?
On 8 Nov 2008 at 10:00pm Ben wrote:
Geoff, you're clearly struggling. Here are all my posts from the previous thread. Please be so good as to point out where I make claims about what councillors can and can't do. If you're not able to point it out, please apologise.
On 29/10/2008 Ben wrote:
I haven't seen the programme, but Peter Gardiner used to be Head of the School of the Built Environment at Brighton University, so I'd be surprised if he had a complete lack of knowledge about planning legislation.

On 29/10/2008 Ben wrote:
Okey doke. I shall wait to be surprised.

On 30/10/2008 Ben wrote:
Right, seen it now.
There's some clever editing in that piece. The presenter talks about a lack of dialogue between the Planning Committee and residents. Then we cut to Peter Gardiner saying that the Planning Committee shouldn't make up their minds about a scheme before it goes to committee. He DOES NOT say there shouldn't be any dialogue. Then we cut to Kelvin MacDonald saying that it is a myth that planning committees can't have a dialogue with residents.
See what they did there? Never trust what you see on television.
For anyone interested in the truth about what Councillors can and can't do it's all in "Guidance for Members and Officers on Planning Matters", you can find it via Google.

On 30/10/2008 Ben wrote:
My only agenda is to speak out when I see any examples of the hysterical prejudice and / or exaggerated nonsense that pervade this forum. I prefer to look at the facts objectively and make my own mind up. What I saw in the programme in no way matched the monocular reaction of Spinster and co. The only person who should resign is the producer of the programme, for putting together a deliberately deceptive montage of interviews that gave those people who are so desperate for evidence of political incompetence exactly what they crave.
I make no apologies on behalf of the planners or the Councillors regarding their record over the last few years and I certainly wouldn't try to defend them. I myself have been at the sharp end of their exasperating approach to planning and conservation. But that doesn't mean I read things into a television programme that aren't actually there.
As for naivety, I think it is naive to think that Councillors can sit down with locals and discuss a specific application while remaining impartial, particularly when everyone is so against development. In practice, there are very few Local Authorities in the country where Planning Committee Members will risk accusations of bias or impropriety by getting involved in discussions about specific sites.
[Sorry if this post appears twice. The first attempt had a naughty word in it].

On 30/10/2008 Ben wrote:
No. Nor do I work for the Council, etc etc.

On 30/10/2008 Ben wrote:
The other thing I've noticed about this forum is that when people can't or don't want to understand something, they just get abusive.

On 30/10/2008 Ben wrote:
Lopster, did you and the others actually read my post above? In no way am I trying to defend the Council. I'm just pointing out that the programme was deviously edited and Spinster and Local are wrong to call for a resignation on the back of it. I'm sorry if people are disappointed by this evident truth: by all means call for his resignation on the back of LDC's record over the years if you like.
One point: the statutory public consultation that accompanies every planning application is the democratic process by which public opinion is obtained. No other process is required by law.

On 31/10/2008 Ben wrote:
How many times do I have to say it? I am not defending anyone, I am only interested in being objective rather than prejudiced. I do not work for LDC, a developer or indeed anyone else at all.
I understand what is supposed to happen - the point I am making is: why do very few, if any, Local Authorities up and down the country allow their Planning Committee Members to engage openly with either public or applicant, as the RTPI would suggest? Even on site visits, members of the public are usually not allowed to talk to members.
What I don't understand is your point about having a voice. If you want to be heard, you can contact the planning officer with your concerns, you can contact your ward councillors, or you can contact your MP. That's three voices. And you are quite entitled to speak at the Planning Committee. So four voices in all.

On 31/10/2008 Ben wrote:
Hmm. Whatever the CoC and Kelvin MacDonald say, I think it's nave to believe that Planning Committee members should be fully involved in planning application discussions or public meetings. Once you go down that route, developers will quite rightly and fairly ask for their own discussions with the Planning Committee, and imagine the uproar if the Committee was sitting down for a series of cosy chats with, say, the Styles about the Phoenix site. Quite apart from the fact that almost every application would be susceptible to challenge at judicial review. It's just not realistic.

On 31/10/2008 Ben wrote:
Annette, wouldn't your second ground for judicial review would include a claim of bias?
If anyone knows of a Local Authority in this country where Planning Committee Members take the risk of being openly involved in meetings or discussions with either the public or applicants, I'd be interested to hear about it, and how it works in practice.

On 31/10/2008 Ben wrote:
In what way am I offering conflicting views? All I am saying is that Local Authorities up and down the country have Codes of Conduct allowing Planning Committee Members to have limited direct discussions with the public and applicants, and that's all utterly admirable. But in practice it's rare, and with good reason: it's very difficult to remain impartial if you are being lobbied by an angry mob of residents or an oleaginous developer. Personally I would prefer to have a clearly-defined situation where the Planning Committee is too remote, as opposed to a hazy one where there is a higher risk of prejudicial decision-making.
What I feel is the real issue here is not whether the Planning Committee members are directly contactable by either party or not, but whether people think their views are being heard and represented. Dealing with exasperating planning officers up and the country, as I do on an almost daily basis, I can understand your past experiences in this respect. I think we are all agreed that the lines of communication and representation, and indeed the general bureaucratic approach of LDC, could be a whole lot better than they are. But that's a separate discussion.

On 31/10/2008 Ben wrote:
No winners or losers as far as I'm concerned. It's not a competition. I don't like prejudice or misconceptions which is why I try to stimulate sensible debate rather than blindly join the chorus of booing and hissing.
If you'd actually read my posts you'd know I'm not supporting Gardiner, I'm just trying to put a balanced view. Everyone agrees with my original point, which was that the programme was edited in such a way as to make Gardiner look a fool. Whether he is or not is another matter and I'm certainly not going to try to argue with people who say he is.

On 02/11/2008 Ben wrote:
Geoff, I've seen nothing in this thread to dissuade me of my two main points:
1. Whatever Gardiner has said and done in real life, the programme was a sham; and
2. A system where there is full involvement of Planning Committee Members in discussion with the public and applicants regarding planning applications is, in reality, unworkable, which is why it doesn't happen in Lewes, and why it doesn't happen anywhere else in the country.

On 03/11/2008 Ben wrote:
Right. So what you're saying in a nutshell, Phil, is that it's perfectly OK to distort people's words as long as it reflects the views of the majority?

On 8 Nov 2008 at 10:04pm Spinster Of This Parish wrote:
Deep breaths Ben!
On 9 Nov 2008 at 10:37am Annette Curtin-Twitcher wrote:
Is there a "longest post" prize or something?
On 9 Nov 2008 at 1:22pm Geoff wrote:
Hello Ben, and everyone else. Sorry Ben, didn't see you down here.
I won't pick my way through all your posts.
If we recall, you were claiming to be impartial, yet your posts make it clear that you support Cllr Gardiner's view that Councillors 'who are responsible to the electorate' (source;the Code of conduct) should not ever meet with them to discuss planning matters. Although 'unbiased' you support Cllr Gardiner by saying "I'd be surprised if he (Cllr Gardiner) had a complete lack of knowledge about planning legislation"
Cllr Gardiner does have a lack of knowledge about planning legislation, and that is why a Planning expert was on the BBC show, pouring cold water on Cllr Gardiners wishy washy comments. ( I understand that Cllr Gardiner is a retired science lecturer?) Before the programme Cllr Gardiner attended a meeting, accompanied by the assistant to the District Solicitor. It was Chaired by Norman Baker who was kindly attempting to give a voice to residents concerned with the failure by Councillors to engage with residents regarding planning issues. At that meeting residents were told by Cllr Gardiner that Councillors should not meet with members of the public, and that this view was supported by the Council's legal advice of Mark Reynard, who was also present. They confirmed that this advice was being given to Councillors, which explains why none of us get replies to letters, phone calls, or enquiries about planning. This advice is very obviously incorrect and disturbingly undemocratic. It has been interfering with the Planning process, ever since it was originally identified, some years ago by another weary resident. Perhaps you could explain Ben, why the Council and the Lead Member for planning would encourage Councillors to breach the Code of Conduct? And also breach their responsibility to engage with the electorate, despite promising, in writing, 4 yrs ago that they do allow Councillors to meet with the electorate. The 'unusual' advice that Cllr Gardiner revealed is not advice that is supported by other Councils in England, so why this one?
There is a current planning cock-up that demonstrates exactly why this interference from Cllr Gardiner is causing problems. Once again there are serious errors in an application being presented to Councillors, in a report written by a planning officer. The report is biased and flawed, and it is understandable why residents may wish to correct it before consideration. by speaking with their Councillor, and not the planning officer who wrote it.
Sadly Cllr Gardiner's inaccurate advice to his colleagues makes it impossible to meet, and resolve the problem, so the application will go to commitee, and we are likely to see yet another deferral, or a flawed approval.
This is exactly what happened when the Albion and East St Residents Association tried to resolve a planning problem in Albion St in 2004. It is sad that Cllrs seem so gullible that they take Cllr Gardiners advice, without checking the Code of Conduct. Have you read it yet?
The reason why Cllr Gardiner looked such an idiot on the programme is because he has been acting idiotically. Having told other Cllrs that they can't meet with the public to discuss Planning issues, it is interesting to consider how Cllr Gardiner behaves himself. He is also a Planning Commitee member who votes on applications. if you read your posts above, you will see how you (like cllr gardiner)defend the practice of ignoring requests for direct communication with parties involved in applications. Cllr Gardiner however, does just that. Whilst dictating what his colleagues shouldn't, he happily meets with Charles Style, and has such poor judgement, that he even appears in published photographs with Mr Style, and Planning officers. How does this fit in with your desire to avoid 'hazy' decision making.
I should finally point out that if you wish to be impartial, you need to stop pressuming that residents objecting to an application, are 'an angry mob' All many residents want, is to see the process followed correctly. You do not seem to be distinguishing between opinion in planning matters, and the legal requirements, such as including 'material considerations', unbiased planning reports, and proper consultation, including statutory consultees. All of which have been breached in some way or another over the past 5 years. Currently it is impossible to ensure that legal failures still being identified by residents, are corrected before an application is considered because no one will discuss it with them, other than planning officers who made the 'mistakes' in the first place.
Cllr Gardiner should resign, because he has been interfering with the planning process, by advising his colleagues incorrectly. In doing so, he has also breached his requirement in the code of conduct, to be 'responsible to the electorate' he has simply become an 'employee' of the Council, and I am just a little horrified to see his colleagues put up with this.
On 9 Nov 2008 at 1:54pm Ben wrote:
In all that ridiculous blathering you haven't answered me. Where exactly did I make "claims about what councillors can and can't do"?

The very simple answer is - I didn't make any such claims. At the start of this thread, you said that I did. Stop trying to create a smokescreen and just admit you were wrong to do so.
On 10 Nov 2008 at 1:46pm Mystic Mog wrote:
Part of what is says in the LDC document
"4.2 Councillors who find themselves being lobbied (either in person, over the phone, or by post, fax or e-mail) should take active steps to explain that, whilst they can listen to what is said, it would prejudice their impartiality if they expressed a conclusive point of view or any fixed intention to vote one way or another."

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