Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fight The Flights At The Houses Of Parliament

FTF were recently invited to speak on the platform at an event in the Houses of Parliament, organised by Friends of The Earth , and hosted by Paul Truswell MP on the proposed new 'Planning Bill'. We were honoured to be asked, and to stand alongside other successful campaigners from the local communities.

It gave us the opportunity to tell MPs our experience of the failings in London City Airports application - which required consistent objections and requests for clarification and further information - all of which happened to be on the bits that the airport wanted to bury as they were negative. To be able to object and technically challenge is crucial - RPS, Bickerdike Allan Partner and LCA all have their own agendas - to make money. Not too much else matters to them - and that is why the communities voice is so important and the current proposed Planning Bill is bad news for communities.

For those of you not familiar with the proposed bill, it would essentially move all MAJOR applications away from local councils and into the hands of an unelected board of individuals.

It will:

1. remove the meaningful right for communities to participate in decisions about where they live
2. not take account of climate change

As we all know the current system is not perfect, it relies upon an efficient and fair council that is objective and not biased or autocratic. Newham Council clearly does not fall into such a description, however communities do at least get a chance to represent their concerns, even if Newham don't listen to them and ignore requirements. Hazel Blears however is even misguided enough to support that developers carry out their own consultations in this new bill - can you imagine the advertisement which masquerades as a consultation, that London City Airport would carry out? Probably the same one they have already carried out with their 'partners' LB Newham. Statements made by Richard Gooding the CEO of LCA such as 'there will be no increase in noise levels' would be even more commonplace than they have been in such a system. But this time it would be endorsed by a ridiculous piece of legislation which is the biggest threat to democracy since post war. Public inquiries would no longer be available communities.

Still that is the way LB Newham seems to like it - either remove funding from groups that don't play their game, or ostracise anyone who dares to object or criticise the council, or its Mayor. They call that totalitarianism don't they?

Hazel Blears wants this new planning bill - she says to speed things up and refers to residents as 'minnows' and the developers as 'sharks' to justify removing the democratic rights of residents to have a say about their communities . She might be right about the business/developer 'sharks' but she is completely out of touch in referring to residents in communities as 'minnows'. She should have realised that when she sees the growing group of aviation anti expansion campaigners and direct action campaigners. Minnows they are not.

The way to speed planning up is to ensure that developers such as London City Airport submit decent, accurate and detailed applications in the first place. They did not, and even on approval they had not. That developers choose to overlook the negative impacts of their plans slows the process down, it is the applicants that Blears should be looking to if she wants to speed up the process.

Blears wants to stop you asking questions but do you trust an unelected board to put you and your community above the requests of the sharks? We say no.