Online planning bid backlash

Councillor George Fairhurst speaks as members of the community in Standish attend the Save Standish anti-housing development public meeting, held at Unity Club, Standish
Councillor George Fairhurst speaks as members of the community in Standish attend the Save Standish anti-housing development public meeting, held at Unity Club, Standish

CAMPAIGNERS want Wigan to return to printed planning applications for public consultation.

Residents at the latest Save Standish anti-homes development protest meeting complained angrily that they had been unable to view the latest and growing number of housing schemes for the village and take part in the decision-making.

As a cost-effective efficiency measure, applications are no longer lodged in printed form at district libraries, only downloadable via their free-to-access computers.

Unsuccessful silver surfers told the gathering that the applications take too long to download from the server before they can be viewed.

Others found the whole process too technically challenging to complete.

Now Standish independent councillor George Fairhurst has launched a campaign to make sure libraries have paper as well as digital versions of planning applications again.

Resident Janet Monks, who attended the protest meeting, said that the digital-only decision was disenfranchising large numbers of older people from taking part in decision-making.

She said: “We were at a meeting over all these planning applications for Standish and it suddenly struck me that when the first Unitary Plan came out the council put paper copies in the library for people to look at and consider at their leisure.

“But somebody at the meeting was saying that they didn’t know about the Core Strategy because they don’t use the internet.

“I have now had a lot people saying to me that they are concerned about all the things that are going on in Standish but because they don’t use the web or social media, they are finding it difficult to keep up with it all.

“I do myself use the internet and I have looked at the planning applications on the computer but it is very slow and it isn’t as convenient as being able to sit down, read in your own time and then turn the page and then turn the page back again to reconsider something you have just read.

“It just isn’t that easy to do on the internet even if you are well used to using it, which I am. The library, being the centre of the community, should have a paper copy.”

Coun Fairhurst said: “I have had a number of complaints from older people that they want to have the planning applications back in Standish Library in a printed form so that they can take their time to view them and consider them.

“Many use the internet but these plans can take a long time to download and are hard to view as they are detailed.

“I think it would be a great idea to get the plans back in the library so people can see them in hard form and I am contacting the council to ask if they can do this.”

However, assistant director for planning and transport at the council, Mike Worden, said that uploading planning applications onto the internet by the council was a “much more efficient and cost-effective way” to share planning applications with residents.

And it was a practice adopted by all of its neighbouring authorities. He insisted that the town hall hadn’t received any formal requests to return to printed copies.

Mr Worden said: “For those who do not have access to the internet, staff at local libraries, Leigh town hall and the Life Centre can assist to view applications on computers.”