The cost-cutting begins: Link Road planning amendments submitted

April 14, 2013 by combehavendefenders Sussex County Council (ESCC) has applied to itself (as the planning authority) to make a number of ‘non-material amendments’ (NMAs) to the plans for the Link Road.  These are far from ‘non-material’ (ie insignificant) – especially for  non-drivers – and it’s crucial that we object to them immediately.

What will change?
These amendments include eliminating flood storage capacity, eliminating bridges for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, diverting the greenway, eliminating a dedicated bus lane, and reducing the width of verges.  These amendments are going to save ESCC millions of pounds, at the same time that they hugely reduce the amenity value of the road for non-drivers, thereby discouraging non-car journeys, as well as causing a potential flood risk.

Why non-material?

By claiming that the amendments are ‘non material’, ESCC can avoid having to put in a new plannning application, which would cost a lot of money and probably cause delay to the start of work.

What is material?
To get some idea of what kind of amendments are usually considered material, ESCC’s own website has details of an application they did consider to be ‘material’: a primary school wanting to put a canopy over its play area.  That such a trivial matter could be considered material, whilst a multi-million pound amendment to a multi-million pound road could be dismissed as non-material, is staggering.

Why the changes?
These are simply money-saving measures: before construction has even started, ESCC is clearly finding that it’s likely to go over budget and is cutting out many of the promised benefits to non-drivers, obviously seeing those as an optional extra.
As time goes on, we are likely to see more and more of these cheese-paring measures, and it’s vital that we object to them in the strongest terms whenever we hear about them.

But will we hear about them?

ESCC is trying to make these amendments under S96a of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990: Power to make non-material changes to planning permission.  ‘Non-material’ is not defined in the Act; Local Authorities are free to interpret it as they choose.  The government guidance on NMAs is contained in the document ‘Greater flexibility for planning permissions’, and it is clear that being consulted – or even told – about amendments that are deemed to be ‘non-material’ is not something we should expect:

52. Is consultation/publicity required?

 ‘As an application under s.96A is not an application for planning permission, the existing DMPO [Development Management Procedure Order] provisions relating to statutory consultation and publicity do not apply. Therefore local planning authorities have discretion in whether and how they choose to inform other interested parties or seek their views. As by definition the changes sought will be non-material, we would not expect consultation or publicity to be necessary in the majority of cases, and we do not anticipate effects which would need to be addressed under the EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment] regulations.’ (emphasis added)

How can I object?
Full details of how to object can be found here.  Objections can be received up to the day before the matter is considered by the planning committee – if it is in fact considered, rather than waved through by a planning officer – so please object as soon as possible.  Please note that objections must include your name and address.

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