THRILLED as I am that the council planning board saw fit to refuse the current proposal for the Archery Ground redevelopment, I have to say that the meeting drew attention to a woeful lack of comprehensive knowledge of the scheme on the part of the chief planning officer.
When asked about the comparative heights of the existing college tower block and the proposed Blocks A and B, he was unable to produce the relevant drawing for the meeting at once, but assured the members that it was about two storeys higher than the new proposals.
When pressed as to whether that was six metres, or more, he couldn’t say, and the issue was left hanging. A short while later, he could be seen wielding a ruler, obviously trying to establish a scale.
If he had spent anything like as long as I have looking at the plans and drawings, he would have known the answer, as I did, that while at 56.72 AOD its ridge is slightly higher [1.20m] than Block B [55.528], it is in fact 3m+ lower than Block A [59.875], as may be seen in the drawings supplied by Gladedale.
Since much of the discussion was about the impact of Blocks A and B on the neighbourhood in general, his answer was pertinent, but he remained silent.
He was also asked about the number of different types of flats within the Listed building, and the numbers of three- and four-bedroom houses and how they related proportionately to the number of one- and two-bedroom flats across the site.
He was not able to answer either of these immediately, but got a colleague to do a quick count up on a print out before answering the first, but not the latter question.
To arrive at the board meeting for such an important proposal without a complete knowledge of the scheme you are recommending to be adopted is very poor practice.
It is in line with the attitude of the developers who have consistently produced inaccurate drawings.
When I approached Philip Villars of Indigo, the planning consultants, and asked why he employed people who turned out so many mistakes, he averred that he did not employ them, but that they did put them right – with my help and thanked me.
I am not a planner, or paid. I pointed out the mistakes to demonstrate, time and again, what a slipshod affair it was, only for the planning department to give the developers more time, again and again, to rectify mistakes they should never have made.
Next time round, I hope everyone concentrates on being thoroughly professional.