Councillor Ruth Wilkinson (@RuthWilk) tries hard to keep her twitter followers up to date with local planning issues. Today she posted a link to the document reporting comments on the draft Old Headington Conservation Area Appraisal. I looked at the document and despaired!
It is 21 pages long and seems to consist of just three detailed responses. Each response picks through the original document almost paragraph by paragraph and line by line, so repetition is inevitable. On such-and-such a point, Respondent 1 may say something, Respondent 2 may agree, disagree, or have no comment. But to see this you would have to be constantly hopping backwards and forwards in the document trying to collate the comments into a coherent whole.
Then we are not told who the Respondents are so we don’t know what if any vested interests they may have. I guess Ruskin College is one of them, the Friends of Old Headington may be another, I just don’t know. It implies that all respondents, individual or collective, are given equal weight. Similarly simple drafting suggestions are not distinguished from comments about major environmental issues.
I think the tedious pile of stuff people have to wade through to get any useful information is a major problem with our planning system. Communication of important facts doesn’t seem to be an objective. How on earth are our busy representatives supposed to have an informed debate about planning issues with documents like this as the basis for discussion? And unless they are acting on behalf of some pressure group ordinary members of the public just aren’t going to bother. It doesn’t say much for democracy – or, the cynic would say, is that the whole purpose? I’m sure it’s not, but …..