Alternative facts that would put US president to shame

Date: Tuesday 2nd May 2017

Sir, I witnessed the depressing spectacle of Eden Council officers colluding with some planning committee members in presenting a collection of alternative truths and facts that would put the current US president to shame.

Planning officers recommended approval of applications to build 30 houses in Sockbridge and Tirril. In doing so, they completely failed to support their recommendation with evidence, policy or credible argument.

This recommendation contradicted every planning framework written by Eden District Council (EDC) since 2010. It contradicts both the core strategy and the soon-to-be adopted local plan, both of which recognise that Sockbridge and Tirril have limited resources and cannot sustain this size of development.

Houses are a resource that if deployed appropriately can enhance the environment, build social cohesion and develop the economy. The critical success factor in achieving these laudable goals is to build houses close to employment and services. Authorities across the world, including EDC, recognise this to be the case. To do otherwise is harmful.

It is a matter of public record that the local plan examination inspector recommended that EDC reviews the local plan housing distribution strategy and, in particular, the number of key hubs (locations capable of sustaining development the size proposed in the planning applications for Sockbridge and Tirril). EDC, to its credit, reviewed where houses should be built and recommended that Sockbridge and Tirril no longer be considered a key hub as it can only sustain development that satisfies local need.

Evidence was presented that demonstrated there is no local need for houses in Sockbridge and Tirril. So why did EDC’s planning officers recommend that applications to build 30 houses in Sockbridge and Tirril should be approved?

Furthermore, why did the planning committee fail to scrutinise this recommendation when presented with compelling evidence of the consequential harm to our community. None of the committee members who voted to approve the applications asked a single question of the objectors, who included a retired senior town planner, solicitor and an associate professor of sustainability.

The committee completely disregarded legal advice, expert opinion, and common sense to approve these applications, which contradict its own planning department’s recommendations for the soon-to-be adopted local plan.

This decision was at best perverse, and those who recommended it, or voted for it, should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.


(Associate Professor)

Heriot Watt University,