Epsom and Ewell Borough Council disagrees with the claims made by Green Belt campaigners reported 1st July. Yufan Si of Epsom and Ewell Green Belt and Alexander Duval stated that their clear objections to Green Belt development were not so classified in the consultation analysis by EEBC.
Steven McCormick (RA Woodcote and Langley) Chair of the Licensing and Planning Policy Committee has hit back and said: “I would like to reassure all residents in the borough that, contrary to the assertations in this article, no responses to the consultation have been excluded, or ‘not counted’. Every single response we have received has been logged and published on our online platform, Inovem.
“We received a significant number of responses during the Local Plan consultation. Most respondents chose to complete the online questionnaire on Inovem. We also received copies of the questionnaire by email and by post, which have since been uploaded onto Inovem. On the questionnaire, respondents were invited to tick a multiple choice box for each policy area (this shows as the ‘Option’ column in the published responses), and whether they want to add comments (this shows as the ‘Comment’ column in the published responses).
“Alongside responders that used the questionnaire, we also received a significant number of more general responses by email and post, which have also been uploaded onto Inovem. Whilst some of these responses made it clear which policy or policies they were referring to, in the majority of cases officers have used their judgement to assign the responses received to the relevant section of the Local Plan. As part of this process, officers have not completed the multiple choice ‘option’ questions and have left these blank, unless a response clearly stated the question number or policy reference and directly quoted one of the multiple-choice question response options.
“There is an important reason for this. Our officers cannot presume to know which option each respondent would want to use, if they want to use one at all – this would be a subjective decision by officers, and it may not be correct, particularly where responses do not state they are specifically for or against a policy, but are providing general feedback, which is common. All comments are still clearly displayed, and the comments are a vital element used by officers to ascertain what the views of respondents are regarding the different policies.
“All the comments received during the consultation period will help to inform the preparation of the next version of the plan for consultation, which will be the version of the Local Plan that the council intends to submit to the government for examination.
“We will publish a Consultation Statement alongside the next version of the Local Plan that will provide a summary of the main issues that have been raised and how they have been taken into account. Once again, we would like to assure residents that all responses have been published and are viewable on the consultation platform.”
The Green Belt campaigners did not complain that their objections had not been published. How else could they have known how their responses were classified or not? Their complaint was that their stated objections were not classified correctly. As the reader will see from Cllr McCormick’s response the business is not straightforward. The Green complaint is not black and white.