I'm concerned to hear from residents from Brymbo that Planning officers have refused to release information relating to the process by which the three proposed gypsy and traveller sites were chosen for Wrecsams upcoming local development plan. I see no reason what so ever as to why this information should not be made public.
A wide range of issues were discussed by the Planning Policy Panel in Wrecsam over the last 18 months in order to make recommendations for the new local development plan. As a panel member, I have raised concerns about this panel and its governance and also the fact that all meetings were deemed confidential. Other Councillors tried to attend the first meeting of the panel but were told by officers that they couldn't come in, thankfully this was over ruled by the chair of the panel who clearly disagreed with this thinking.
Councillors on the panel have put in a lot of work over the last 18 months as regards the local plan, a lot of positive things have come out of that process, although I personally disagree with several of the final recommendations. However, I feel that the process generally and the panel itself was too closed off, I see no reason why the panel should not have been open to the public and minutes and agendas made available to other Councillors as would happen under the usual scrutiny process.
The gypsy and travellers sites are only one part of a local development plan which will dictate all development in the County Borough until 2021. With this being such an important strategy and in the interests of openness and transparency, it's essential that there is more public involvement in these processes, the quality of life of local people will be directly affected by this document.
It can come as no surprise that members of the public are now questioning the fairness of this process and are stating that it was not done in the interests of the electorate or in the interests of open government. I would urge planning officers to make any documents requested by members of the public available for open scrutiny, not in several months time when their comments will be passed to the planning inspectorate but now in order for the authority to take into account people's views.
Update: Planning officers have now agreed to release the information as there are no legal grounds to withhold it.