I thought I should post a few comments about the application by William Hill Organisation that came before the Council’s Planning Committee last Wednesday, 19 February. It is not usual for members of the Planning Committee to provide a public rationale for decisions but as a ward councillor I make the following comments as to why the application succeeded, in spite of some local opposition and speakers addressing the planning committee. It is also the case that the meeting was attended by a reporter from one of the local newspapers and all information here was stated at the public meeting.
The application (number 2014/58) referred to the opening of a Betting Shop by William Hill. The planning officers report can be viewed via this link: http://eservices.solihull.gov.uk/mgInternet/documents/s4585/REPORT%20BY%20HEAD%20OF%20DEVELOPMENT%20MANAGEMENT%20-%20201458S.pdf
A list of representation is shown on page 34, but most of the reasons for objections are not objections that can be cited under planning procedure. I appreciate this can be frustrating for residents but planning law is very technical and an object ‘because we don’t want it’ will not succeed. Objections must be based on fact. One speaker placed great emphasis on the car parking situation, but even though parking is at a premium in the centre of Dickens Heath, to refuse planning permission to a betting shop because of car parking would mean that any other business applying for planning permission would not succeed. A speaker also wanted a green grocer or baker to open – but, with this unit closed for some time, and other unit closed, no-one has come forward to take the risk of opening such businesses. The same speaker also mentioned the application should be refused on moral grounds. However, whether you bet or not, there are several licensed premises in Main Street and there are many people who are opposed to drinking. It was also noted by members the shop would be opposite a ground floor gymnasium.
Finally, planning policy allows shops like these to go ahead for a period of two years without seeking planning permission; this is to allow economic regeneration and to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy. By making a formal planning application the council were able to ensure conditions regarding the operating hours and noise control were provided.
Essentially, there were no sound planning principles for the application to be refused and one committee member stated that, although the organisation identified a need for such a shop in Dickens Heath, if there was no public support for the betting shop then it will close.