Wye Future Group should engage with Imperial College and not take on the role of a negative protest group, planning consultants have said.
Planning Aid, a state-funded organisation which aims to engage ordinary people in the planning process, has told WFG that it should not appear ‘too negative’ or take on an adversarial attitude when making representations on Imperial’s plan. WFG members have been told by its planning and environment committee – code-named ‘Green’ – that this would not be ‘selling out’ and would not prejudice the group’s right to make representations if and when a planning application is submitted.
Gemma Fitzpatrick, of Planning Aid, told members of the group that WFG needed to make a representation to Ashford Borough Council on the forthcoming Local Development Framework as part of the statutory Statement of Community Involvement. WFG intends to appoint a commercial firm of planning consultants to help it make representations. Meanwhile, Ms Fitzpatrick recommended that the WFG gets ‘actively involved in Ashford’s LDF and Imperial’s development proposal’.
In an email to members of the planning committee, one member of WFG said: ‘It is very usual for organisations who want to make representation against a development to get involved with the developer to advise them of their concerns. In fact, the new planning system actively encourages this engagement.
‘If and when this gets to a public inquiry, we will want our case to be properly listened to and taken seriously. For that to happen, we will need to demonstrate that we got involved as soon as we could and took a reasoned stance making our case based on “material planning considerations”.
“So, as soon as we are ready we will be writing to Imperial asking for a meeting with them at which we will be firmly opposed to the scale of their proposal, but friendly in behaviour.”