THE leaders of four residents’ associations in Christchurch have written to BCP Council protesting over how planning decisions are being made in the borough.

In the letter to chief executive Graham Farrant and leader Cllr Drew Mellor they refer to ‘collective dismay and disillusion’ with the process.

The four are repeating calls for Christchurch to have its own planning committee.

And they have outlined concerns about several applications to back up their complaints about how planning in behind under BCP.

These include the Avon Beach hut extensions at Friars Cliff, blocks of flats in Chewton Farm Road in Highcliffe and Jumpers Corner and the controversial incinerator at Hurn - passed last month despite more than 700 objections.

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They say these specific issues “are emblematic of wider BCP planning issues, and in this letter we explain why we believe there is an ongoing failure of ‘due process’.

“We urge you to take this seriously, as the present arrangement is not fit for purpose and does nothing to foster trust and confidence among a great many Christchurch residents the BCP Council purports to represent.”

The letter has been signed by Steve Alves and Paul De Jonghe of Friars Cliff Residents’ Association, John Pendrill of Christchurch Citizens Association, Ian Hartnell from Highcliffe Residents’ Association and Sarah Boyce of Winkton Residents’ Association.

The letter complains of overt and weighted ‘bias’ from Bournemouth and Poole councillors on the planning committee with applications being passed in the face of objections from Christchurch councillors and public opposition.

It goes on: “Also…it is inappropriate to see the chair Cllr David Kelsey, often applying excess leverage on the planning committee to support these applications, which he clearly favours.

In two cases “he sets out his personal views early on, and then re-iterates them repeatedly as the hearings continue, even to the point of challenging the highways officer who recommended refusal.”

The letter says the examples “are all symptomatic of the failed BCP Planning Process that favours, overwhelmingly, the interests of Bournemouth and Poole over Christchurch,” and ignores local opinion.

This now leads us to engage with, and support, the campaign position of the Christchurch Independents Group and Highcliffe Parish Council.

“The joint position is that the BCP planning process is not fit for purpose in terms of its failure to represent the balance and local interests of the Christchurch area.”

The residents’ associations are renewing calls for a separate planning committee for Christchurch.

Cllr Kelsey has been asked for a comment.

Mr Farrant has confirmed he is looking into 'the behaviour of Cllr David Kelsey as chair of the planning committee."