Diary: Cat-throwing highlights perils of virtual planning committees

Local authorities have swiftly turned to “virtual” committee meetings after the government passed legislation allowing councillors to meet remotely during the coronavirus outbreak.

Former Commissioner Chris Platzer and his car. Pic: City of Vallejo website
Former Commissioner Chris Platzer and his car. Pic: City of Vallejo website

But a couple of unfortunate incidents have highlighted the risks involved. In South Somerset, a planning committee was disrupted when unexpected participants with explicit usernames played audio from a pornographic film. Over in California, Vallejo City planning commissioner Chris Platzer was forced to resign after a remote meeting in which he was seen to hold his cat to the camera before tossing it aside, drinking a beer, then making “derogatory remarks”. The city authority promised an investigation to ascertain the cat’s wellbeing.

Things got really wild in Hampshire last month when a planning inspector informed Eastleigh Borough Council that two site allocations for a total of 5,200 homes had to be removed from the authority’s local plan. Lib Dem council leader Keith House welcomed the inspector’s comments as “a clear indication that the local plan can be found sound”, prompting Eastleigh’s Conservative MP Paul Holmes to condemn his “gross misrepresentation” of the inspector’s “damning comments”. Meanwhile, TV presenter Chris Packham was dragged into the furore by the Daily Mail, which said the wildlife campaigner had “thwarted” the council’s plans regarding the 5,200 homes after a “four-year battle”. In reality, Packham described the site allocations as “eco-vandalism” on one occasion.

East Lothian Council enforcement officers have handed down their verdict in a heated neighbourly dispute that turned out to be an open and shut case. A North Berwick homeowner was forced to apply for retrospective planning permission after a neighbour complained about her painting her front door pink – it had previously been blue. The complainant argued that this did not “match the colours of the area”. However, officers granted permission after considering a suite of photographic evidence showing a plethora of brightly-coloured doors in the vicinity – as well as another house painted almost entirely pink.

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