27 October 2011

Our friends in the north.............

For those readers who have followed the M&B saga, today is the 2nd anniversary of the mass resignation of the Keenan/Canvin administration from Somerton's Town Council. That mass resignation was triggered, in large part, by the opposition of a large number of Somerton's residents to Canvin's proposal to relocate the Household Waste Recycling Centre from his trading estate on Bancombe Road to his land at Badger's Cross, on the other side of Somerton.

That project subsequently ran into a variety of obstacles, not least the impact of financial restrictions at national level which meant that the project was effectively scrapped. However, it was always my own belief that the recycling centre was only the first stage in the 'Bancombisation' of Badger's Cross and, sadly, that would seem to be the case.

News has reached me that at yesterday's meeting of the South Somerset Area North Committee, Canvin's latest application for B2 use on his land at Badger's Cross was approved. From a cursory glance at the file on SSDC's planning portal, it would seem that the Officer's recommendation to refuse was ignored by the Committee who voted, almost unanimously, to approve it. I understand that only Ward Member David Norris voted against it. So what is to be made of this curious turn of events?

Back in July, I attended the Area North Committee meeting when, again against Officer's recommendation, the Committee approved the Edgar application for Etsome Terrace. Canvin was a pivotal figure in the deal that saw Edgar Homes buy the Etsome site and Canvin spoke at that meeting in support of that application, which the committee subsequently approved (with only 1 vote against). Now we have Canvin's own application being considered, with 137 letters of objection, an Officer's recommendation to refuse and a Highway's opinion against the application, yet the Area North Committee decided in favour of the applicant.

So, the question I would ask is, "Who does Area North represent, the wider community who they are elected to represent or the narrower community of their friends and ex-colleagues in the development community?". On current performance, I'd say the later.

What is more frightening is the prospect of Minister Pickles' 'Localism Bill' making it even easier for local interests to influence the planning process over the heads of the wider community of voters. So, it would seem that the 'Somerton Spring' may actually have been the 'Somerton Autumn'. Don't bet against the Keenan/Canvin axis taking back Somerton Town Council.

Till next time, I'm Niall Connolly