Alan Bunce argues that the planning system is standing in the way of two major attractions in West Oxfordshire, adding delays, costs and risks. 

If it wasn’t for Jeremy Clarkson, few people outside the property world would ever know the problems of the planning system.

Perhaps his struggles with West Oxfordshire District Council over the restaurant and car park at Diddley Squat Farm are doing the property world a favour by showing how much time and effort, money and risk goes into applying for permission, seeing it through and, if necessary, going through the appeals process.

Although members of the public rarely see the cost, they end up paying it one way or another, such as in the price or rent of their homes, their council tax or the price of many things they want to buy or services they want to use because those costs are always passed all the way through to the consumer in the end.

The new planning fees are a classic example and, as Jonny Denton points out, add to the many costs already lumped onto developers.

While the Jeremy Clarkson row gets the national spotlight, West Oxfordshire District Council is at the centre of another planning issue around a major attraction in the county.

Councillors voted to approve permission for the Mullin Automotive Museum nearly four years ago but opponents tried to have the decision called in by the Government which delayed it. Permission was finally given in May 2020 but we all know what has happened to the industry – and the world – in the three years since then.

Now councillors have voted to approve a new, tweaked, version of the museum but, given the history, it’s perhaps understandable that no-one is opening the champagne yet.

These two major attractions which could bring commerce and jobs to the area are being mired in red tape. Imagine the areas in the north of England where these projects would be welcomed with open arms.

Yet here Jeremy Clarkson continues to run up against the system and the stunning Mullin Museum, likely to be one of the few days out that could genuinely appeal to all ages, remains something of a mirage until every i is dotted and every t crossed.

Perhaps the next thing should be a planning museum where every scheme that fell foul of the system could be exhibited.

If the price in wasted effort was exhibited along with every artefact, the public might start to understand that the bill for the system’s failings go way beyond the cost to developers.

Image: Matt Seymour – Unsplash.

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