Planning woes

Thorfun

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Why is it so hard to get planning approval? Such a simple thing is mired in bureaucracy, pettiness (at least perceived), personal interpretations of the planning policy (e.g. the definition of disproportionate to the existing building) and, in some cases, pure incompetence!

 

One such example was from Southern Water who said they couldn't approve the proposal with a sewage treatment plant and we had to apply for connection to an existing sewage system. err....the nearest sewer is about 200m away as the crow flies over roads and fields that aren't owned by us! none of the houses in our hamlet have mains sewage and we even have an existing Klargester which we will simply be replacing with a new version. so why would they say that we need to connect to mains sewage? crazy. fortunately, I got on the phone and a few weeks later I got a call from someone who actually knew what they were doing and eventually got an email saying that using an on-site treatment plant was not an issue.

 

Then we get to the highways agency. we're asking for a new entrance off the road as it's more practical with the way the plot is and where the new house is going to have it rather than use the existing entrance that is shared with our neighbours. We submitted the visibility splays (although the architect forgot this initially and the first letter from the highways agency was asking for them) and the response we got was basically, how can we put a new driveway in when we don't own the (approx. 1') of verge between the adopted highway and our land and also we needed a traffic survey for the road as it's national speed limit (albeit a single track road so no one could get or does get above 40mph). I got our solicitor on the case about the potential ransom strip and he's sorting that out so we pointed this out to the highways agency and also submitted the existing visibility splays and showed that the visibility of the new entrance is better than existing and so the highways agency eventually agreed to the new entrance and had no issues with the application but did stipulate some conditions. This whole thing took so long that we had to grant a 1 month extension to the decision date.

 

It wasn't all bad though, the Parish council didn't have any objections but did raise a concern about the flat roof as there's a policy against flat roofs in our parish apparently and we had no complaints from neighbours as part of the consultation period and even had one lovely neighbour who wrote in support of the application.

 

so, with all the above done and no issues it came to the planning officer being able to view the application in its entirety. We really weren't expecting too much of an issue here as, although the footprint was quite large, we were adding an annexe for my mum and figured that would be considered as a separate entity to the main house for footprint etc. also we have planned a basement but that also shouldn't count to the footprint. we thought we might get pushback from the ridge height as the outlying planning was for a chalet bungalow and we submitted for a 2 storey house with a pitched roof. So we were shellshocked when the architect said he'd heard from the planning officer and said that the gross internal area (GIA) was too much and we'd need to lose the basement, studio (the room above the garage) and the garden room and also shrink the annexe! wtf! we honestly couldn't believe it. Our initial reaction was to comply and then build the garden room and convert the garage loft post completion. but after thinking for a bit I decided not to capitulate and that we would fight it and so hired a planning consultant to fight our corner for us.

 

we have since supplied to the planning officer the potential size the existing bungalow could be if extended under permitted development with an 8m deep rear extension along the entire length of the property and a loft conversion. with these figures it shows that what we intend to build isn't actually as much of an increase as the planning officer officially thought. hopefully common sense will prevail and he'll understand what we're trying to achieve here and that we don't want to have to have buildings in the garden to get the space we need but want it all under one architecturally designed roof that is sympathetic to the surrounding woodland. if it doesn't though and he's still adamant that the property is too big then we have a list of potential reductions that we're willing to do.

 

And that's where we're at with the planning application at the moment. there's another extension in place until the middle of June so hopefully we can come to some sort of agreement to get the house built. fingers crossed!

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My situation was very similar, Please don’t think they will have “common sense!”, ours had none. We were replacing an existing (nearly derelict) bungalow, first telephone call to the planners informed me we could extend by 10% (didn’t mention permitted development) or go up a floor So I drew up plans for our cottage slightly larger than the old bungalow . We wanted to use  another entrance that had been put in many years previously (written permission from council) which was safer to exit (don’t talk to me about highways either!!!. Long story short 4 planning applications later (fir something we did not want but ground floor was so the plan was by the time we got to first floor we would win an appeal  (which I did it myself, not difficult) and won hands down. Council told us we did not have permission to use new entrance (even though I sent them a copy of their permission), Told us we did not own land to create a splay, yes we did but splay existed . ( I won’t go on with a long list) Frankly I would not pay (some) planners in washers. Cost me a lot of money, cost me two years. Don’t be afraid to go to appeal, I hope your planning consultant is better than mine (hopeless). Appeal even told the planners they were not abiding by their own policies!!!,!!!  End of rant.

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7 minutes ago, joe90 said:

My situation was very similar, Please don’t think they will have “common sense!”, ours had none. We were replacing an existing (nearly derelict) bungalow, first telephone call to the planners informed me we could extend by 10% (didn’t mention permitted development) or go up a floor So I drew up plans for our cottage slightly larger than the old bungalow . We wanted to use  another entrance that had been put in many years previously (written permission from council) which was safer to exit (don’t talk to me about highways either!!!. Long story short 4 planning applications later (fir something we did not want but ground floor was so the plan was by the time we got to first floor we would win an appeal  (which I did it myself, not difficult) and won hands down. Council told us we did not have permission to use new entrance (even though I sent them a copy of their permission), Told us we did not own land to create a splay, yes we did but splay existed . ( I won’t go on with a long list) Frankly I would not pay (some) planners in washers. Cost me a lot of money, cost me two years. Don’t be afraid to go to appeal, I hope your planning consultant is better than mine (hopeless). Appeal even told the planners they were not abiding by their own policies!!!,!!!  End of rant.

I appreciate the rant and I know that I'm not alone in our planning woes.

 

our planning consultant has said that appeals at the moment can be at least 9 months long so we're trying to find an amicable solution so we don't have to go down that route but I do know it's a possibility if we have to and will if the compromises we're being asked to make to our dream home are too much. we still have the potential option of going above the planning officer's head to his boss if it seems he's being obstinate about it all. only time will tell what happens and I hope that by mid-June we'll have a happy outcome to this, lockdown will be over and we can crack on building it! 😀

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So paras 2 and 3 are PITAs you have bored through.


What is the origin and evidence of this policy against flat roofs, and who formulated it?

 

What is the policy status of the GIA limitation?

 

I'm surprised if you cannot make a material argument based on extended family and benefit to the local community through it providing better care arrangements.

 

Don't forget that the time limits on making an Appeal are quite tight.

 

Edited by Ferdinand

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1 hour ago, Ferdinand said:

What is the origin and evidence of this policy against flat roofs, and who formulated it?

it's just a Parish council policy and isn't always enforced by the LA. so isn't an issue in this proposal as the Parish council have no objections to the proposal. the flat roof was more of a note rather than official objection.

 

1 hour ago, Ferdinand said:

What is the policy status of the GIA limitation?

 

from the HDC Planning Framework (https://www.horsham.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/60190/Horsham-District-Planning-Framework-2015.pdf):

 

Policy 28, section 2:

Replacement dwellings should not be disproportionate to the size of the existing dwelling whilst extensions should also, and in addition, be in keeping with the scale and character of the existing dwelling. The cumulative impact of existing extensions will be taken into account.

 

so this is basically all that is written on the matter. so it leaves 'disproportionate' phrase up to the planning officer. 

 

1 hour ago, Ferdinand said:

I'm surprised if you cannot make a material argument based on extended family and benefit to the local community through it providing better care arrangements.

 

Don't forget that the time limits on making an Appeal are quite tight.

 

our planning consultant is arguing such things but we are in the hands of the planning officer if we don't want to go for appeal. and, don't worry, if the application is rejected then we'll be appealing as soon after that as is possible!

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You can take your application to committee if a councillor forwards it fir you, that way it’s not just one planner that’s calling the shots (although our committee threw ours out, even the councillor that was supporting us would not look me in the eye at the council meeting when they voted it down,) some “untruths “ were even told but I was not allowed to object as we had already had our 10 minutes. It was a farce but no way of recourse on our side.

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13 minutes ago, joe90 said:

You can take your application to committee if a councillor forwards it fir you, that way it’s not just one planner that’s calling the shots (although our committee threw ours out, even the councillor that was supporting us would not look me in the eye at the council meeting when they voted it down,) some “untruths “ were even told but I was not allowed to object as we had already had our 10 minutes. It was a farce but no way of recourse on our side.

thanks for the suggestion. our planning consultant seems to think that it shouldn't need to go to committee but, yes, it is another option.

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good stuff.

 

I am not sure If you can send it to committee yourself, or if you need to get a councillor to call it in.

 

One trick. I think if it gets to committee you only get to speak if there is also an objector, so if someone objects but pulls out at the last minute, you use your opportunity.

 

The solution is to have a friend object then put forward an argument based on non-relevant matters, which means you get a guarantEed hearing.

 

Pity you can’t do a Potemkin extension out of cardboard or wood under PD.

Edited by Ferdinand
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Yes it needs a councillor to call it in for you. I like that idea of a friend objecting 😳, try to speak last, that way you can cover anything that’s been said before you speak (unlike I was able).

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The general guidance as to when an application goes to committee seems to be that one of the following has to happen:

 

1.  The application gets enough objections during the consultation stage to trigger it being called in.

 

2.  The planning officer believes that the application is such that it exceeds his/her delegated authority.

 

3. One local authority councillor calls the application in (they don't have to give a reason, AFAIK).

 

Parish Councils don't have the authority to call an application in, but they do often have a certain amount of leverage with the local authority councillor, and, at least as far as our PC was concerned, if they asked the LA councillor to she would almost always call an application in.

 

Going to committee can be beneficial sometimes, depending on the nature of the application.  Planning committee members rarely know much about planning law or local policies though, so can be swayed by the recommendation from the planning officer.  The positive side to this is that the planning officer cannot put anything in that recommendation that isn't supported by planning law or policy, so it can tend to remove some of the subjective stuff.  Very much a double edged sword, though, as it can be really difficult to try and predict which way a planning committee might go.  One positive aspect is that some planning committees will be acutely aware that if they refuse an application, and it subsequently gets approved at appeal, the LA may have to pay the costs.  In these cash-strapped times this may lead to committees being a bit more cautious.

 

FWIW, I don't see how the area of the basement can be a valid planning consideration.  I went through chapter and verse with areas with our application, as a previous application had been refused on the grounds that it was too big a footprint.  I proved that the key area for planning purposes is not the net internal floor area, but the area of the footprint.  The factors that were valid as far as dimensions went were the footprint area and the height and length of the roof ridge.  In theory we could have added a basement after gaining consent, as long as it didn't change the external appearance (in practice we couldn't do this easily, because of the water table).

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4 minutes ago, Jeremy Harris said:

The general guidance as to when an application goes to committee seems to be that one of the following has to happen:

 

1.  The application gets enough objections during the consultation stage to trigger it being called in.

 

2.  The planning officer believes that the application is such that it exceeds his/her delegated authority.

 

3. One local authority councillor calls the application in (they don't have to give a reason, AFAIK).

 

Parish Councils don't have the authority to call an application in, but they do often have a certain amount of leverage with the local authority councillor, and, at least as far as our PC was concerned, if they asked the LA councillor to she would almost always call an application in.

 

Going to committee can be beneficial sometimes, depending on the nature of the application.  Planning committee members rarely know much about planning law or local policies though, so can be swayed by the recommendation from the planning officer.  The positive side to this is that the planning officer cannot put anything in that recommendation that isn't supported by planning law or policy, so it can tend to remove some of the subjective stuff.  Very much a double edged sword, though, as it can be really difficult to try and predict which way a planning committee might go.  One positive aspect is that some planning committees will be acutely aware that if they refuse an application, and it subsequently gets approved at appeal, the LA may have to pay the costs.  In these cash-strapped times this may lead to committees being a bit more cautious.

 

FWIW, I don't see how the area of the basement can be a valid planning consideration.  I went through chapter and verse with areas with our application, as a previous application had been refused on the grounds that it was too big a footprint.  I proved that the key area for planning purposes is not the net internal floor area, but the area of the footprint.  The factors that were valid as far as dimensions went were the footprint area and the height and length of the roof ridge.  In theory we could have added a basement after gaining consent, as long as it didn't change the external appearance (in practice we couldn't do this easily, because of the water table).

thanks @Jeremy Harris. I agree about the basement. if it gets to it maybe I can ask the planning consultant if we can consider adding the basement afterwards but that is the sort of pettiness that I was alluding to in my blog post! I could put in for a smaller house with no annexe or studio or garden room and then build them under PD afterwards (assuming they don't take our PD away that is) or put a new planning application in for extensions but what a bureaucratic farce! just allow it right off the bat to save all the faffing around. 

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25 minutes ago, Jeremy Harris said:

some planning committees will be acutely aware that if they refuse an application, and it subsequently gets approved at appeal, the LA may have to pay the costs. 


I was not aware of that.I was informed costs were only awarded if the council failed to abide by rules for planning 

 

21 minutes ago, Thorfun said:

! I could put in for a smaller house with no annexe or studio or garden room and then build them under PD afterwards (assuming they don't take our PD away that is) or put a new planning application in for extensions


our planner suggested I do this , what a farce!!,

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Planning Officers, are all complete TOSSERS, as are local Twats who sit on Parish Councils, and think they are all powerful. If i could, i would make all Parish councils produce a neighbourhood plan if they want to have a say in planning. As far as voting on individual property matters, i would take the vote away from them. They have no training, and no idea.

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My wife has just become a parish councillor 🤐 and from attending a few meetings it is my impression that they have no real power but give a view based on local knowledge as their “patch” is much smaller than the planners and local. Several applications around here were called into question because locals could see what was going on which a remote planning officer would not know about.

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23 minutes ago, Big Jimbo said:

Planning Officers, are all complete TOSSERS, as are local Twats who sit on Parish Councils, and think they are all powerful. If i could, i would make all Parish councils produce a neighbourhood plan if they want to have a say in planning. As far as voting on individual property matters, i would take the vote away from them. They have no training, and no idea.

 

Good job that I'm no longer a Parish Councillor then, wouldn't want to be considered a twat . . .

 

As @joe90 says, Parish Councillors have very little authority, especially with regard to planning.  The opinion of the whole Parish Council only carries the same weight as one neighbour objection, and the PC can't do more than comment during the consultation stage.  It always seemed to me that any comment from the PC was given a stiff ignoring by the planners.  Pretty much the only thing the PC could do was as @joe90 says, add some local observations.  In our case, they were more often supportive, rather than negative.

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You keep saying that Jeremy, and in the case of your local Parish Council that may be the case. However, in mine, and several other councils, an objection from the parish council, means that an application HAS to go to the planning committee. A total waste of time and money.....All because jumped up twats who sit on Parish Councils.....

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15 minutes ago, Big Jimbo said:

You keep saying that Jeremy, and in the case of your local Parish Council that may be the case. However, in mine, and several other councils, an objection from the parish council, means that an application HAS to go to the planning committee. A total waste of time and money.....All because jumped up twats who sit on Parish Councils.....

 

I've worked with two different PCs, spent a year or so as a co-opted volunteer on the Neighbourhood Plan committee where we used to live and a stint here as a Parish Councillor.  Neither of those PCs had the authority to call in an application, that could only be done by an LA councillor.  Parish Councils are legally only allowed to be consultees on planning matters within their Parish, and have no authority to call in an application to the LA Planning Committee.  Given that PCs have no representation on planning committees, and are not represented on them, this makes sense.  You will find that your PC will be the same, it will not have the authority to call in an application, as the regulations are the same across the whole of England.  The Wikipedia entry is accurate, and makes it clear that PCs are only consultees, and have no powers as far as planning is concerned.  If yours is breaking the rules, then I suggest you challenge them, perhaps using an FoI request to get evidence first.

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Eden District Council.... On there website. Are they breaking the law then Jeremy? 

IMG_20200503_210914_1.jpg

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The clue is the name . .

 

They are NOT your Parish Council, they are your Local Authority, a District Council!

 

District Councillors definitely can call in applications to committee, and as the planning committee is made up from District Councillors they do have the authority to decide planning applications.

 

Parish Councils are the next tier down, unpaid volunteers that represent the interests of smaller communities within a District or Unitary Council.

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Jeremy, have you bothered to read what i posted ? Eden..... clearly says that a planning app will need to go to comittee if the P.C. object to it....What am i missing here ?

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Eden district council is a local authority Jeremy.............They decide on planning apps for several areas

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11 minutes ago, Big Jimbo said:

Eden district council is a local authority Jeremy.............They decide on planning apps for several areas

 

 

You're missing the point, though.  You're now talking about District Councils, that have employees, manage and run planning departments etc, not Parish Councils, that can do none of those things.

 

Have a read of the government web page on the way local government works, here: https://www.gov.uk/understand-how-your-council-works  From that you'll see that at the bottom of the list there are Parish Councils, that have no authority over planning matters, above them are either a District Council,  a Unitary Authority , or a Town Council, that run the local planning department.

 

There's a very big difference between being a Parish Councillor, sitting in a Village Hall for a couple of hours once a month, discussing things like tidying the graveyard, keeping the village tidy, keeping the local footpaths clear and safe, etc, for a few hundred local people, and a District Council/Town Council/Unitary Authority that may employ hundreds of people, run a panning department, refuse collection, road repairs etc.

 

 

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Surely LA have the authority to decide what gets called in.

 

If they want to do that for all PC objections, then why could they not use their discretion to set such a policy?

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Jeremy, i'm afraid you are up to your usual tricks.....Many district councils clearly state that a planning application received by them, that is objected to by the local Parish Council (Twats) can no longer be decided by Planning officer delegated powers, and that it has to go to District Council planning committee. Why can't you either acknowledge that you were wrong, or state why you are right. It's clearly stated on the Eden District Councils Web Site..... I took a photo of it for you fella.... Even great men make mistakes. Greater men admit to them.....

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5 minutes ago, Ferdinand said:

Surely LA have the authority to decide what gets called in.

 

If they want to do that for all PC objections, then why could they not use their discretion to set such a policy?

Perhaps they can have such a policy Ferd. What is annoying me is that Jeremy is stating that Parish councils have very little effect on planning applications, are are only considered in the same way as any other objection. regardless of who set up the policy.....If the result of a Parish Council objection is that a planning application has to then go before a full planning committee, then they are having a huge effect. Don't you think ?

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