I HAVE come to detest the phrase “it ticks all the boxes” when applied to surveys and statements connected to planning applications and I have heard it a lot, as there seems to be an assumption by the planning department that any discovery or statement made by a developer or their agent is true and beyond reproach.
And yet in my relatively short experience of the planning process I have found lies and half-truths accepted as gospel truth by those with the power to affect people’s lives.
Take for example the case of the field behind my house. I photographed a piece of heavy plant being brought to drill on the field on behalf of the developer, but when our residents’ action committee mentioned this to the planning department, the planners stated that the developer had categorically denied any part in the activity.
Likewise I read a document about drainage of the field produced for the developer which stated that a pipe had been laid along the southern field boundary to drain the field. No such pipe has ever been laid, yet Yorkshire Water has accepted the document on face value. It ticks all the boxes.
A while ago I watched a member of Wakefield highways committee observe the progress of a refuse lorry down our street as it negotiated a slalom of parked cars, he had in fact told the lorry driver to keep as near to the kerb as possible. It managed with a struggle to pass all the obstacles. The official said the road “ticks all the boxes”. He was not there however when an ambulance attending an emergency failed to negotiate a speedy passage up the avenue, or when the refuse lorry knocked over a bin full of garden waste because it could not pass a parked vehicle without mounting the grass verge.
A survey of flora and fauna undertaken on behalf the developer found little of value in the field and dismissed as anecdotal evidence the presence of rare species such as newts that residents claim to have seen. But there is a rich store of wildlife there including great crested newts.
But what really worries me is the fact that all this collation of evidence by the so-called experts is taken as the gospel truth. I have tried to wade through the thousands of pages of evidence collected, I have found errors and noted them, my comments have been dismissed as I am a layman and not an expert. How many other people with specific local knowledge will have spotted many more such errors too?
I suspect that come the day of the planning committee’s adjudication on this matter, the planning officer will say in all seriousness that the development ticks all the boxes, and members of the planning committee will nod politely and wonder how on earth they could disagree with all the weight of professional evidence put before them.
Dr David Foster