I attended a council meeting which was considering an application for planning permission for the demolition of the Poplar Inn on Bath Street and the building of 27 residential properties at the rear.
The planning was approved despite our objections, with one of the conditions that the builder concerned donated £60,000 to the council to regenerate the town centre. I found this quite staggering!
From the perspective of a lay person, I find it difficult to believe that a sum of money can be promised to a public body such as the council as part of planning approval.
The fact that this cash was attached to the application suggests, in my view, that the application may well not have succeeded on its own merits.
I am unfamiliar with the practices of planning applications, though if this is not an isolated case and these payments are common place, I have to ask what it says about the system.
I can envisage a case where a socially worthy scheme would be overlooked for a scheme that had greater financial backing.
I would rarely have any objection to any individual or company donating money or services to the local community, but these donations should be entirely separate from any application that the council has power to grant, in my view.
I believe that these actions would be wholly unacceptable in any other part of society.
I would expect the council to hold itself to at least these standards.
We were disappointed that the application was passed and our objections, in my opinion, largely ignored.