Sunderland Council “shamefully silencing local people” over new developments
By Niall Hodson
Decisions about new housing estates and other developments in Sunderland won't take into account local people's views because key decision-making meetings will now be held during the day when people are at work.
Sunderland City Council's Planning and Highways Committee (East) will be responsible for considering planning applications across the Sunderland area - but Labour councillors chairing the committee have decided that meetings will be held during the daytime at 2pm and not in the evening at the usual 5.30pm slot.
The decision means that people who work during the day won't be able to have their say on planning applications affecting them and their community.
The planning committee for the west of the city, covering applications in the Washington and Houghton areas, will continue to meet in the evening.
Opposition councillors from the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and Conservatives have hit out at the decision.
Lib Dem opposition leader on Sunderland City Council Niall Hodson said:
"This decision is shamefully silencing local people and is typical of power-hungry Labour councillors in charge of Sunderland Council who think they can do what they like without having to listen to local people's views.
"The planning process is controversial enough as it is, but local residents will be up in arms if they can't speak out and make their views known about new housing estates and other developments because decisions are being taken whilst people are at work.
"Even Labour MPs in the city agree with us. When a crunch meeting about a new incinerator in Washington was held during the day Sharon Hodgson MP complained that having the meeting during working hours would stop many local residents from attending.
"Sunderland Council's bosses must now do the right thing, change their mind and keep planning meetings in the evening so that local communities' voices can be heard and acted upon."