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Calls to change planning process in Downham Market

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There have been calls to change Downham Town Council’s planning process this week.

Councillor Jackie Westrop put a motion to this week’s council meeting suggesting the existing protocol is “short-sighted”.

She said she would like to see a new roadmap with more open dialogue and use of the Neighbourhood Plan in light of major developments in the town including the new Lidl store being approved.

There were calls to change the town council’s planning process during a meeting this week.
There were calls to change the town council’s planning process during a meeting this week.

There were calls for more exchange between planning decisions and the Neighbourhood Plan committee.

Councillor Doug Lawson said: “For some of the background policy we do not have that opportunity to have a more general, open dialogue.”

There was also acknowledgement that holding planning meetings on Zoom had made this open dialogue difficult.

Councillor Jo Woodmin said she became a new member of planning committee two-years-ago, and felt she would not have been able to contribute anything at the time if it was held online rather than in person.

But mayor Becky Hayes emphasised it was government policy to hold council meetings virtually during the pandemic, and stated this will not be changing for the foreseeable future.

Councillor Jenny Groom said: “Covid is encouraging people to move out of London and we are at a very crucial stage of development.

“I agree with Jackie that at the moment it is all happening in a bubble.

“The whole landscape of the town is changing and if we are not having a wider debate about it, we could lose out big time.”

And councillor Frank Daymond said that as chairman of planning, he was disappointed the planning process for Lidl was automatically taken on by the mayor and deputy mayor instead.

He said: “If that happens, there is no point in having a meeting if the chairman can’t speak. If we are having a planning meeting, there is a town hall where you can meet with plenty of space.”

The mayor said it was only right that every councillor has a say on developments as they are there to represent the public.

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