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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40 minutes ago, Big Jimbo said:

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 ?

 

 

You've been highly critical of PARISH councillors, as in this quote that started all this off (my emphasis):

 

1 hour 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.

 

Now it turns out that you didn't mean Parish Councillors at all, so instead of apologising to me (as a former Parish Councillor) for indirectly calling me a twat, you've tried to deflect the debate by pretending that all along you really meant your DISTRICT Councillors, who quite obviously are a much higher tier of local government (legally they are an authority), that run lots of services, including planning.

 

Either you're just trying to stir things up, or, perhaps, you didn't bother to read either of the links I posted earlier and so you're wholly unaware of the very big difference between the different tiers of local government.

 

FWIW, ANY objection on valid planning grounds can result in an application being called in by a local authority, has nothing at all to do with which objector makes it.  The usual culprits are internal council departments, like highways etc.

 

 

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No i ment Parish Councillors Jeremy, and the effect that they, as completly untrained people, can have on planning applications. The fault may indeed be with district councils, for having a policy that, Any planning application that receives an objection, then has to go before a full planning committee, and can no longer be decided by delegated powers.....Now i think the only person trying to twist things here is you..... You stated that an objection by a parish council, only carries as much weight as any neighbour objection, did you not ?

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From the image posted earlier it seems that an application only goes to a committee if a parish council objects based on a relevant planning consideration ,not just any old objection. So unless the objection is based on relevant planning grounds it should be ignored. If it is based on valid planning considerations then that's what the system is there for surely? Or else we could just do away with the planning system and make it a free for all.

 

It's similar up here I think, albeit that we have community councils rather than parish councils.

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Sorry @Big Jimbo but I agree with @Jeremy Harris and take exception to you calling my wife a twat. Her interest In all things local as an unpaid volunteer is admirable despite them having very little power. In our area if the parish council object to a planning application it is not necessarily called into committee, I have witnessed several cases locally. Whilst I tend to agree with your view about planners, my comment earlier was MOST planners etc as do not know all planners personally, as you do not personally know all parish councillors.

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1 minute ago, jamieled said:

From the image posted earlier it seems that an application only goes to a committee if a parish council objects based on a relevant planning consideration ,not just any old objection. So unless the objection is based on relevant planning grounds it should be ignored. If it is based on valid planning considerations then that's what the system is there for surely? Or else we could just do away with the planning system and make it a free for all.

 

It's similar up here I think, albeit that we have community councils rather than parish councils.

So if you personally make an objection to a planning application, on a material consideration, you will be viewed as an objection. If the Parish Council make exactly the same objection, then it will trigger it being sent to the full planning committee, and mean that the trained, and qualified planning officer, will no longer be able to use his delegated powers, to decide the application. But instead will now have to write a report, and the application will now have to go before the full Planning Committee. So effectively, the Parish Council (Untrained Muppets) will have over-ridden the ability of the trained planning officer to make a decision.

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19 minutes ago, Big Jimbo said:

So if you personally make an objection to a planning application, on a material consideration, you will be viewed as an objection. If the Parish Council make exactly the same objection, then it will trigger it being sent to the full planning committee, and mean that the trained, and qualified planning officer, will no longer be able to use his delegated powers, to decide the application. But instead will now have to write a report, and the application will now have to go before the full Planning Committee. So effectively, the Parish Council (Untrained Muppets) will have over-ridden the ability of the trained planning officer to make a decision.

 

Any objection made on valid planning grounds can result in an application being called in.  Planning officers should pick this up anyway, as that's their job, and they shouldn't be relying on objectors knowing more about planning law and policy than they do.  Here what happens is that  if there is an objection on valid planning grounds from the PC, or from  member of the public at the meeting, the local authority councillor (who is usually in the audience at PC meetings here) will agree to call the application in.  The key thing is that it isn't the Parish Council doing this (they don't have the authority) it's the local authority doing it.

 

I can only recall one PC objection made on valid planning grounds and that application was withdrawn by the applicant before the PC objection made it to the LA, as the planning consultant that had submitted it spotted the error, withdrew the application and resubmitted it with the error corrected.  90% of PC negative observations on planning applications are really just intended as reminders to the planning officer to check details (almost always related to issues like highways safety, drainage, use of materials and appearance etc, in my experience)

 

If someone submits an application that doesn't comply with planning law, or local planning policy, then it doesn't really matter who flags it up, does it?  Part of the problem we seem to have with planning is that some people seem able to get away with flouting planning law/policies, leading to others feeling that the system is unfair (me included in that - it can be unfair). 

 

The PC shouldn't make an objection that isn't on valid planning grounds, although I know full well that some do, and there have been times when I've heard Parish Councillors make objections in meetings that just aren't valid, they are little different from neighbours in doing that.  Usually, the Clerk to the PC will refuse to submit something that isn't valid, though, as a key part of the Clerk's job is to ensure the PC operates within the law.  Our Clerk was a stickler for keeping us in line, and would always let us know if what we planned to write on the form wasn't acceptable.  I would hope that all Clerks do the same, but would guess that some may not be as on the ball.  The Clerk's role is to prevent the "untrained muppets" making fools of themselves, by submitting something that isn't valid.

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5 minutes ago, joe90 said:

Sorry @Big Jimbo but I agree with @Jeremy Harris and take exception to you calling my wife a twat. Her interest In all things local as an unpaid volunteer is admirable despite them having very little power. In our area if the parish council object to a planning application it is not necessarily called into committee, I have witnessed several cases locally. Whilst I tend to agree with your view about planners, my comment earlier was MOST planners etc as do not know all planners personally, as you do not personally know all parish councillors.

We all have a tendancy to kick off every now and then Jo90, and no offence to your wife was intended. Obviously, in your area, your wife, if she sits on the planning committee of the local Parish Council, gives her view, along with others on the committee, and they vote. which will conclude with a support, object etc. There comments, from what you say, will only be viewed with the same strength, as a neighbour who may have been consulted. I have got no problem with that fella. What i do object to is that untrained people sitting on a Parish Council, can by objecting, cause an application, to be taken effectively, out of the hands of a trained, and paid for planning officer, and cause it to have to go before a full planning committee where quite often, party politics will come into play. I don't like to admit that i sat on a Parish Council for 9 years. I left in the end, because i found so many of them thought that they were soooo important, If one of there pals wanted a bench in the villiage, we were all expected to ok it. The money that was received (Tax payers Money) was wasted, and the local small businesses, would be be-littled, and bullied to contribute to the crimbo lights. The P.C. would then switch them on to great hurrah despite not having contributed a single penny towards them.

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Surely, the case would only be called in, in the event that the PC objected and the Planning Officer made a positive recommendation in their report.

No point of call in if he Officer recommended refusal in line with the parish council objection.

This was the case with my application, a ward councillor called it in in the event that the officer recommended approval but as the PO did not, it was refused under delegated authority.

 

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Jeremy, no offence was directly aimed at you either. Regardless, as i believe you will have seen. At some councils a valid objection received from a P.C. will cause an application to be taken out of the hands of a Qualified, and Paid planning officer, and put before a Full Planning committee.

That, in my opinion, is a complete waste of money, and time.

At my last P.C meeting they raised objections to 11 out of 12 applications.

At the meeting before 14 out of 15 applications.

All of those applications that were objected to will now have to go before a full planning committee.

If we can't trust the trained planning officer to pick up on material considerations than we need a whole new set of planning officers. Perhaps we should swop them for Parish councillors.

We have, in several councils, outside untrained people, who are taking the decision away from the trained planning officer.

Regardless of who wrote the policy. That is wrong.

In the case of my council, we may aswell do away with the planning officers, because the rate of objections received from the P.C. means we don't need them or there expertise.

I state for the record, not all planning officers are tossers. (Just the one's i know) and not all Parish Councillors are muppets, or twats. ( Just the one's i know)

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20 minutes ago, Johnnyt said:

Surely, the case would only be called in, in the event that the PC objected and the Planning Officer made a positive recommendation in their report.

No point of call in if he Officer recommended refusal in line with the parish council objection.

This was the case with my application, a ward councillor called it in in the event that the officer recommended approval but as the PO did not, it was refused under delegated authority.

 

 

 

Pretty much, if it's a valid point that's been missed.  My experience is that I've never once seen either of the two PCs I've been associated with be able to influence a planning decision.  Whenever there has been a refusal, it was always on valid planning grounds, and nothing to do with the PCs bit of paper they sent in.

 

I've certainly seen pretty poor behaviour by parish councillors, ranging from trying to get support for a mates application to trying to get the PC to buy services from their businesses.   Most parish councillors do the job because they want to help and improve their local community, but some definitely do it in the hope that they can exert some influence.  The daft thing is that parish councils have very little power.  They may have a fair bit of responsibility, for things like safety of play ground and equipment, footpaths etc, but their power is negligible, they have to do pretty much everything through the local authority.  Can be frustrating at times, as often our local authority seemed to pretty much always give the PC a stiff ignoring.

 

 

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15 minutes ago, Johnnyt said:

Surely, the case would only be called in, in the event that the PC objected and the Planning Officer made a positive recommendation in their report.

No point of call in if he Officer recommended refusal in line with the parish council objection.

This was the case with my application, a ward councillor called it in in the event that the officer recommended approval but as the PO did not, it was refused under delegated authority.

 

That can't be right. So you are saying that the Planning officer supported your application, but he, or she refused it because the P.C. has objected ? Using there delegated powers.

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No, it was only to be called into commitee in the event that the recommendation was to be for approval, but as the recommendation was for refusal it did not go to commitee so I could not put my case to the open forum. Stitched both ways!

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Cor! That seemed to escalate quicker than the film we just watched (Extraction with Chris Hemsworth On Netflix). 

😊
 

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I won costs on my appeal because I uncovered, via an FOI request, a strong smell off dark arts by the planning officer and a ward councillor.

The costs were awarded against the LPA for unreasonable behaviour and failing to follow case law but also the actions of the LPA unrelated to costs can also be taken into account, which in my case I am sure they were.

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We spent over a year in pre-application advice, redrawing and resubmitting drawings, waiting and waiting and waiting. It cost me numerous air fares, hotels and car hire as we were living abroad. Then we discovered a letter they had sent a previous owner of the land that contradicted all of the objections they had been giving me. If the planning officer had been there when we discovered that letter I probably would have punched him.

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As far as taking a planning decision out of the hands of a trained professional (planner) and handing it to committee IMO that’s not a bad thing, our planning officer (one persons point of view) was found by the appeal officer to be way out of order and not following their own policies, surely a group of professionals would come to a better conclusions. Unfortunately in our case the committee followed the planning officer, I have heard on the grapevine they were told which way to vote!!!. At parish council meetings in our area planning is dealt with by the whole council (very small group) who deal with all things “parish”. I enquired about costs from the council following my successful appeal but told I could not claim.

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Both parish councils I've been associated with have dealt with planning applications during normal meetings, only usually takes a few minutes as the comment form doesn't have room for much more than a couple of lines.  90% of applications are for small stuff, like trimming trees, fitting new windows or replacing front fences and gates (being in a conservation area means these often need PP) and many of those applications are just for the PC to note, they can't comment on some of them (tree work, for example).  On average, I reckon we probably only had two or three significant planning applications a year, and most of those will have been for things like extensions.  

 

The problem that I've encountered with planning officers is inconsistency.  One says something and another comes along later and says something completely different.  We tried to buy a plot that had outline consent, and the planning officer had changed since that had been granted.  When I spoke to the new chap he was opposed in principle to what had already been approved!  Hopefully that may have improved in recent years, but I'm not wholly sure it has.

 

Planning committees can be even worse.  I sat in on one meeting where the planning officer gave his report, which was a recommendation for refusal (on very good grounds).  The chairman and one other member of the planning committee were known to be good friends of the developer's agent, and were clearly very supportive of the application, and they bulldozed the rest of the committee into granting consent, despite it being in clear breach of local planning policy and being against the safety recommendations from the highways and fire officers.  The planning officer sat through this with his head in his hands, and at the end asked the chairman for the reason for breaching planning policy, so he could note it.  The chairman told him it was his job to go and find a reason to approve the application, not the the planning committees . . .

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The planning committee for Cheshire West and Chester is streamed live and there is a 6 month back library.

I still watch it to see the LPA's latest thinking after appeals etc.

It is apparent although the members of the committee ought not to be predetermined and should listen to the representations before reaching their decision, many have prepared speeches one way or the other.

The chief planning officer often helps them in providing the wording for reasons of refusal as they would like this to be as watertight as possible in the event of an appeal

Edited by Johnnyt

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11 hours ago, Thorfun said:

Cor! That seemed to escalate quicker than the film we just watched (Extraction with Chris Hemsworth On Netflix). 

😊

 

Interesting thread. My further notes.

 

1 - I agree on basements; I cannot see why a basement of itself in a spacious site should be a relevant planning matter, and I can't find a definitive ruling on whether it should be part of a GIA calculation.

 

Though I can see that if it increases the 'load' of the house eg by having 2 extra bedrooms or an annexe (sort of like an upside-down Jane Eyre), that may impact on other policies.

 

There is a useful document by Camden here which discusses potential impacts (I am not claiming this to be current):

https://www.camden.gov.uk/documents/20142/0/Basement+Development+Guidance+Note.pdf/5727d198-d789-e06e-05ea-77f55b3a0d6f

 

Judging by that doc, it is (probably correctly) a matter for the LPA (Local Planning Authority).

 

2 - One tactic that may help is to define the basement in a way which is non-habitable space (eg workshop, storage) but is suitable for later change. 

 

3 - It's worth a note for future readers that a Planning Officer sits in on the Planning Committee to make sure they don't make 'ignorant layman' mistakes. If the committee choose to ignore this advice, then that is legally an abuse of procedure - and potentially a ground for Appeal.

 

 

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17 minutes ago, Ferdinand said:

 

Interesting thread. My further notes.

 

1 - I agree on basements; I cannot see why a basement of itself in a spacious site should be a relevant planning matter, and I can't find a definitive ruling on whether it should be part of a GIA calculation.

 

Though I can see that if it increases the 'load' of the house eg by having 2 extra bedrooms or an annexe (sort of like an upside-down Jane Eyre), that may impact on other policies.

 

There is a useful document by Camden here which discusses potential impacts (I am not claiming this to be current):

https://www.camden.gov.uk/documents/20142/0/Basement+Development+Guidance+Note.pdf/5727d198-d789-e06e-05ea-77f55b3a0d6f

 

Judging by that doc, it is (probably correctly) a matter for the LPA (Local Planning Authority).

 

2 - One tactic that may help is to define the basement in a way which is non-habitable space (eg workshop, storage) but is suitable for later change. 

 

3 - It's worth a note for future readers that a Planning Officer sits in on the Planning Committee to make sure they don't make 'ignorant layman' mistakes. If the committee choose to ignore this advice, then that is legally an abuse of procedure - and potentially a ground for Appeal.

 

 

thanks @Ferdinand. I agree, it is an interesting thread!

I agree about the tactic to potentially define the basement as storage space, the same can be done with the studio and just board it out post completion to make it usable and we will consider this moving forward if the other discussions don't bare any fruit. but my point on these things and tactics are that they're a joke. and if it can be done after the fact why not just allow it now?

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7 minutes ago, Thorfun said:

thanks @Ferdinand. I agree, it is an interesting thread!

I agree about the tactic to potentially define the basement as storage space, the same can be done with the studio and just board it out post completion to make it usable and we will consider this moving forward if the other discussions don't bare any fruit. but my point on these things and tactics are that they're a joke. and if it can be done after the fact why not just allow it now?

 

Agree with you there.

 

I think you are falling foul of them potentially failing to use their discretion appropriately.

 

 

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1 hour ago, sussexlogs said:

Thorfun you are HTC??

 

Do you mean Horsham District Council? If so, yes. 

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On 12/05/2020 at 08:24, Thorfun said:

Do you mean Horsham District Council? If so, yes. 

Yes.i had lots of hassle with hdc

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