Saturday, 2 August 2008

Dealing with Ceredigion County Council

The last post mentioned some of the problems in dealing with Ceredigion County Council. Unfortunately they are not exceptions, but the rule, when contacting them about the environment. The general problem is one of communication.
"Do you want to find out about this planning application near your home? No problem. Come to Aberaeron. What, you live in Aberystwyth and don't have a car and work full time? Tough. We prefer to use council tax to construct a new building for ourselves rather than to put planning applications online where they would be accessible to all."

Access to planning applications must be improved. Some suggestions are:
  • paper copies deposited in all public libraries in the county;
  • online copies via the Council's webite (this would save paper);
  • improve the current interactive planning tool so that it is possible to see the paperwork (maps, application form etc) associated with each planning application. Using the Bronpadarn Woods as an example, it is very difficult to find the most current application for the site as there have been so many in the past, and the information that is on there is insufficient for locals who wish to know precisely what the plans are.
The whole process of finding out about applications is based around chance. The Planning Department are required to put up a notice like that below. But if you pass an area rather than go through it then you will not notice these. Sometimes they are not there at all - it is unclear whether they were not put up by the Planning Department (as in the last blog entry) or if they were taken down by the person wanting to build on the site (which is apparently easy to do).

Emails - a whole other topic. Back in May 08 a member emailed Highways, Property and Works [HPW] about abandoned car parts, which included a map of the location. No response. On chasing it up again, HPW said that they couldn't find the rubbish. A quick check showed that it was still there, exactly where the map indicated. HPW obviously have trouble using maps (even though the marked map image was from the Council's own mapping system). No other response came from the Council despite requests for an update.

Sometimes we just deal with short-sightedness. Again in May 08 some CIN members spent a morning unblocking a stream that some children had apparently been trying to dam. The water was becoming foul, and there was a danger in heavy rains of all the logs, pallets, leaves and soil washing down at once and blocking culverts further down. The members cleared as much as they could and took away a lot of rubbish for recycling, but couldn't move the last few items (such as a huge truck tyre). The council were asked if they could take away the last few items to prevent them being used to dam the stream again. Unfortunately they said no because it was not public land (even though it is a public right of way) - which is technically correct, but shortsighted, since every time the stream blocks further down the council has an expensive job in sorting it out when it could have been easily prevented, which seems to be a waste of taxpayers' money. If only they took the approach of the volunteers who gave up the morning to clear the stream - it was not their land either, but it is called community spirit and caring, which are good things to encourage.

Apologies that this seems a bit of a rant - the staff at Ceredigion County Council are no doubt extremely busy - but sometimes going just a bit out of their way (or at least responding to communications) could prevent a lot of bad feeling! Ceredigion County Council is meant to serve the people of Ceredigion, but it often feels like the only people they serve is the developers who want to build on every greenfield site.

19 Sept 2008: The image below is an article from the Cambrian News, Thu 18 Sept 08, p5. It is a good example of the County Council not listening to members of local communities, but instead steamrollering their own plans through regardless of the negative effects.

03 Jan 2009: Just an update on the 19 Sept addendum above - the image below is an article from the Cambrian News, Thu 18 Dec 08, p3, saying that the Welsh Assembly Government is reviewing Ceredigion County Council's controversial decision to build a massive industrial estate in Capel Bangor. There was a huge amount of opposition from local residents. Hopefully they will be successful in stopping this development.

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