Sadly in the same week as Hethersett received a Big Society award, this article appeared in The Telegraph as part of their investigation into Councillors for hire.
To quote the article:
“Indigo Public Affairs’s strategy for obtaining planning permission is best illustrated by its management of one housing development.
The application covered 1,196 homes in Norfolk, along with a primary school and other facilities.
South Norfolk councillors approved the new estate at Hethersett, near Norwich, despite more than 100 letters of objection.
Councillor Greg Stone explained Indigo’s strategy for the site:
“My colleague, Barry, was very good, actually. He went down to Norfolk quite a few times, and he’s a Conservative himself, so he knows quite a lot of farmers in that part of the world… on the council, so he, he’s got very familiar with Norfolk farming circles and had a talk with them about, off the record, don’t quote me on this, if you’re a, if you’re a farmer, you know, you’ve got land, you probably see the advantage of selling some of your land for, for building houses on it.”
Before the councillors met to make their decision, Mr Stone explained that Indigo would send out a glossy presentation: “Obviously there’s a bit of PR involvement to accentuate the positive rather than the negative, but we’ll send that through 48 hours before the committee to members… nothing too, too complicated but explaining the key messages.” He added: “Like, we’ve often seen in committee meetings, they’ve got the officer’s report in front of them, like that, and they’ve got ours there next to them and they’re reading it.”
Indigo Public Affairs claim a 92% success rate in planning applications by “consulting with local communities and their elected representatives and listening to what they want. This allows their needs and desires to be incorporated into the planning process from the outset. It creates the ultimate win-win – the planning process is easier and faster for developers because communities and genuinely supportive, and local people get buildings they like in the places they want them to be.”
I think we saw little evidence that our needs and desires were taken into account in the planning application.