Local democracy

PUBLISHED: 11:36 16 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:39 06 May 2010

SIR, — It seems we have, at least in part, Park Street s Conservation Area status to thank for the recent decision by St Albans District Council to reject planning permission for the demolition of The Swan public house and the erection of seven houses in

SIR, - It seems we have, at least in part, Park Street's Conservation Area status to thank for the recent decision by St Albans District Council to reject planning permission for the demolition of The Swan public house and the erection of seven houses in its place.

But, as such a pessimist and cynic as I might have predicted, that isn't quite the end of the matter. Because here in Britain, bastion of democracy that it is, the view of the elected local council counts for nothing if a developer exercises its right to appeal.

In this case the ironically-named developer Ideal Rise had done just that, meaning that the future of this site lies, not with anybody locally accountable, but with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government - one Ms Hazel Blears MP, whose constituency is the Manchester suburb of Salford and who, to my knowledge, isn't a frequent visitor to St Albans and its environs.

If this application does get the go-ahead in the end - and let's face it, it's probably more likely to than not - Park Street will be lumbered with a development described by St Albans District Council's planning committee as "detrimental to the character and appearance of a designated Conservation Area".

All this is the same procedure that we had to blame for the threat which hung over Park Street - and the whole of St Albans - for months, when the council's rejection of the rail freight terminal was challenged. In that case, thankfully, the Secretary of State agreed with the council - but why should she even have a say? Why isn't the considered decision of our elected local council the final word on these matters? And what exactly is the point in voting in local elections when the views of councillors can be so easily overturned?

I am yet to hear any MP or prospective Parliamentary candidate for St Albans suggest that there is anything wrong with the monumental deficit of democracy that this current planning system represents. I very much hope this changes before the next general election so that I can cast my vote in light of it. That, unlike any poll for our powerless and constantly undermined local council, might be an election worth traipsing down to the village hall for.

B. WILKINSON,

Watling Street, Park Street.

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