Until today there were 97 files for the proposed Gillette South development on the Council’s Planning website. This large number was produced by splitting many files, for no good reason, into smaller files. Thus the Design and Access Statement (a key document) was split into 15 separate files. The Heritage Statement was split into 9 separate files. Many other files were also split. This created an entirely confusing and distinctly unfriendly access to the files for the development.
The case officer for the development said, by way of an explanation, that the old planning website imposed a 5Mb limitation. We explained in response that this was simply not true and that there were very much larger files still viewable which had been uploaded onto the old website. Eventually our point got through. There has now been a reduction in the number of files from 97 to 75. The Design and Access Statement has been uploaded and, at our request, the 15 separate files have been removed. Similarly the Heritage Statement is now available as a single file.
Several other documents, for example the transport assessment, are still presented as a number of separate files but our point has been established and now we will ask for the job to be completed.
Our repeated point was that we want the materials to be presented in a way that will encourage rather than discourage viewing. This is clearly not a factor that has been taken seriously by LBH up until now but we may have scored some initial success in establishing that a rather different approach is required if community involvement is to be anything more than an empty phrase.
In an effort to sort this problem out we telephoned the PR agent for the development (Polity) but no offer of help with the problem resulted. Later email communications with Lee Jameson and Martin Hughes of Polity and the agent for the development, David Morris, were positive and it looks as though we may get the single files for the supporting statements we are requesting. The LBH case officer was also helpful and got changes made to the files on the Council website. We will keep you posted.
Note added 5th March. It seems from subsequent exchanges that the source of the problem is with the Council and not the developer. A council officer maintained that the previous Council set-up could not handle files greater than 5Mb (which is contradicted by the existence of very much larger files on the previous system.). A bit of persistent complaining has now resulted in a significant reduction in the number of files through consolidating most of those that had been split into single files. What a waste of our time all this has been.