Steve Secker, Chair, York Property Forum has written a letter to City of York Council.
The York Property Forum, a specialist group of the York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, strongly urges Councillors to rethink the recommendations of the Staffing Matters and Urgency Committee.
At a time of economic uncertainty and in the face of an acknowledged housing crisis in the City, it seems a very short sighted recommendation to remove the post of Assistant Director of Planning within the Council. If the Council leadership is serious about ‘Building Back Better’ then the planning function of the Council, working constructively with the private sector and housing associations, is absolutely crucial to achieve this oft stated aim, as the economic impact of the pandemic becomes clear. The view from property forum members is that these recommendations downgrade the role of planning in their eyes, and would appear to show a lack of understanding about just how important this function is with regards to economic development.
This is even more pressing at a time when we need expertise to get the local plan across the line, and with no dates set for further hearings of the Plan, the Council should be adding resource to the already stretched Planning Department rather than taking it away. There is considerable disquiet from many in the city about the current state of play with the Local Plan and the resources being devoted to it. We appreciate that elected members want the local adopted as quickly as possible, however our analysis of the outstanding work required suggests we will be lucky to get it adopted in 2022 let alone 2021. The fact is, even if the Plan was to be adopted next year, the Council would then be quickly inundated by applications for major housing schemes – many of which will be accompanied by Environmental Statements – extremely resource intensive and needing senior officer input – something the Council is losing too much of.
As an organisation that represents local businesses who invest significantly in York, we feel that the recommendation to this Committee will undoubtedly put the continued economic progress of the City at risk. We understand that these are financially challenging times for local authorities right across the country, and just like our own businesses the pandemic is forcing all of us to make very difficult decisions in order to get through this intact. However, planning is one of the key levers in rebuilding our economy, in turn generating business rates and council tax which ultimately must benefit the council and the citizens of York. We implore you to rethink the recommendations made and not downgrade the city’s planning function.