When councillors in Reading met last week to decide some important planning applications there was a long delay while members read a report which was submitted late.

The report was by the Historic Places Panel, a division of Historic England, and was deemed necessary to the debate on 422 flats being proposed at the Broad Street Mall.

The meeting heard that members of the panel were in town for two days in November, yet their report reached the planning applications committee at around 5pm on March 4 for a meeting at 6.30pm. It had to be photocopied and members given a break to read it.

The photocopy had a page missing which led to further confusion.

It was not clear at whose expense this panel was involved but, since the application was approved, it seems the report made little difference.

This, of course, is just one of any number of documents among the swathes of paperwork involved in any major application but it illustrates the planning system at its worst.

Increasing amounts of red tape is one thing but any additional panel of ‘experts’ will seek to justify its involvement by making recommendations which could potentially cause other unforeseen issues which are out of its jurisdiction.

Anyone looking from a distance at the size and bulk of the Reading Novotel would have a reasonable case for questioning how, given all the consultations carried out and advice submitted, some approvals are given.

If ever there was a need for a simplified, streamlined system it is surely now.

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