How far out of touch can Braintree Council’s planning committee be?

Or should that read - why are planning officers and councillors hiding behind planning policy?

The refusal of Complete Dance’s planning application is a kick in the teeth for all those young people who want to develop their dancing skills and keep fit.

Councillor David Mann stated the definition of madness is to do something again and again and expect a different result.

Perhaps he should consider this is a case of sheer frustration with planning policy that is out of touch and, instead of criticising, do something positive and work to change the policy.

Braintree Council claims employment opportunities must be protected.

But how ironic is this when approval is granted to lose hundreds, if not thousands, of employment opportunities when offices are converted to residential space but it is not acceptable when a tiny percentage of space is required to improve the health and well-being of our young people.

I accept we need residential space but let’s give our young people a chance too.

We have an obesity crisis in the UK and far too many children are overweight, they need space to enjoy their chosen activity and, if given, may well set them up for life on a path of health and fitness.

Braintree Council also fears that if consent is given for change of use it will gradually lose more and more employment space to leisure and recreation. Where is its evidence?

Planning officers state that organisations should find alternative sites closer to town centres but suitable and affordable sites simply do not exist.

I have asked many times over the last few years for planning officers to indicate where these alternative sites can be found for leisure pursuits and so far they have not identified one site.

The nature and demands of business are evolving and so too is sport and recreation.

Specialist facilities, in some sports, are essential if young people are to progress in their chosen activity.

They also offer employment to far more people than employed in those units that are empty, of which there are many, or just used for storage.

Braintree’s Sport and Recreation Built Facilities Strategy is fundamentally flawed as it does not consider specialist facilities.

So come on planners, open your eyes, stop hiding behind policy and work to ensure the health and well-being of our young people.

It is farcical that Braintree Council has developed the fantastic Livewell brand but in contrast its own planning policy is preventing its full development.

How is this a “one council” approach?

I am pleased Priti Patel, with many others, support Complete Dance and a special thank you for those councillors on the planning committee who tried, in vain, to secure Complete Dance’s future.

John Wood

Chairman Active Braintree Foundation

The Avenue, Witham