THE front-page report on the peer challenge review of planning practices at Craven District Council (Craven Herald, November 26) makes sorry reading for CDC officers, elected councillors and Craven residents. It is to be hoped that the promise of improvements will be delivered quickly and that the suggested early involvement of parishes and ward councillors by planning officers and developers will lead to a more balanced approach and significantly improve the adversarial relationships that presently exist.

If there is hope for the future, what of the mistakes of the past? A fortnight earlier, another front page report in this paper detailed mistakes made by planning officers as long ago as 2003. A barrister’s review of the planning history of the Hellifield Flashes found serious mistakes and omissions but these were either excused, or judged too long ago to be reassessed.

Unfortunately, it was not too long ago for the developer to be able to use that flawed permission and destroy a haven for endangered and protected species, home to extensive and abundant bird life and resident great crested newts. Despite confirmation of past errors, CDC has been unable or unwilling to protect the habitat of a well-documented Nature Conservation Area by enforcement procedure, a habitat that is situated within the Long Preston Conservation Area and is a designated Local Green Space.

In contrast, in Lancashire and also within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, landowners are being encouraged and rewarded to create suitable ponds, habitats and water retention areas to help reverse the serious decline of wildlife species and reduce flood water run-off, a decline caused by inappropriate building development, lack of land management and neglect.

At a time of huge challenges to the environment, climate change, pollution and the loss of biodiversity threaten so much of what, in the past, we have been able to take for granted. Planning decisions today, in the future and those of the past will continue to affect our environment for generations to come.

The future of Craven’s residents, especially those with no voice of their own, cannot afford a dysfunctional planning system now.

Jill Wilson