AliG

Planning officer nightmare

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I had the same issues with Powys CC. Planner never answered our calls or replied to a SINGLE email for 7 months. Then after I escalated it to the head of planning he sent me an email saying he was leaving the council in 3 days time so would leave it to the next bod to review! They are totally incompetent. They say they are overwhelmed with applications but half the problem is they create the burden upon themselves with ridiculous interpretation of the policies they administer.

 

I couldn't help laughing in amongst all the frustration though. When some of the locals were asking why it was taking so long for me to start on site I told them the planners were being unresponsive and that I'd emailed the local councilor to try and rally some support. They laughed and said ' you'll be lucky,  our councilor? he's a 80 year old farmer, he doesn't know what email is and hasn't got a computer'. Explains why I never got a response from him!

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If it's arguably PD (and presuming a very low chance of any complaints for a carport) then why not just build it? They'll only get back involved through enforcement if there's a complaint. 

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Unfair on Planners, well most anyway.

They have to spend a disproportionate time dealing with aggressive and determined housing developers, who put in excessive amounts of paperwork, and have lawyers and planning consultants ready to pounce on errors. They are then bombarded with objections from the current residents, and perhaps have some sort of pressure from their employer who wants the development (money per house, and gold stars from Westminster) but doesn't want to upset their constituents. 

 

Then we put in little applications and can either get stamped straight through or be ignored.

 

Meanwhile they have to deal with councillors, who wander in and can demand attention (Elected Member don't you know), some of whom don't follow rules, don't read the paperwork and sometimes have an agenda of their own.

 

When we get back to normal, I suggest going to a council planning meeting. They can be very interesting. I have seen Planners have to give very strict instructions to councillors who don't understand a thing...very diplomatically of course.

 

Some are just not very efficient, and that might be your situation.

You seem to be well supported by reasonable emails, so you are unlikely to get in very big trouble for a tentative start.

If it was me, I would email to say I was starting and would be happy to hear from them. A risk, so up to you.

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I waited 5 months for the write up of my pre app to see how the existing planning could be modified. You can tell the planning officer never bothered looking at it properly because after I lodged a complaint and a freedom of information request to see how many emails and calls they had logged which had been ignored they called back in a flap because the original planning was undischarged on material samples. It cost me a lot of money I was due to

exchange on the plot that week, and I’ve now had to look elsewhere.

 

yes they’re busy, but no they’re not fit for purpose. 

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I followed this case with great interest.

 

Some misc takeaways:

 

  • there's taking the p*ss. Then beyond that there's sticking two fingers up to council officers in person. Then beyond sticking two fingers up to council officers in person there's what these guys did....I hate and I mean, hate LPAs, but Bolton offered them a square deal about halfway through the circa decade long process: knock down and rebuild 2, and we'll let you keep the other 3. They even stuck two fingers up to that....astonishing.
  • then, it hits the national press, at which point a la hay bales man the case morphs from an irritant to the LPA to An Actual Point of National Pride/Humiliation where they are prepared to spend whatever it takes not to look like rollover mugs to the rest of the country. A giant legal war chest is found from somewhere, and it's game over, man, game over.
  • that being said, the volume of time and money these guys chewed up of the LPA was substantial. This was, ultimately, a nobody wins case. How much did Bolton LPA blow over the case's 10 year cycle chasing this lot? £300k? £400k? £500k? More? That's not a win in anyone's book.

So ultimately I'm not against completing works unilaterally and without permission at all, but you have to remain some way within the vague boundaries of lawfulness, you have to play ball and engage with LPAs IF you get busted and finally, and most importantly, you have to complete the works without being busted....

 

That is fundamentally key because then the power dynamic shifts where the ball is pinged back in to their court and they know they're going to have to chase you....

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This thread points to one of the fundamentals of self-building. The need to have access to detailed - intimate -  knowledge about the local building and planning networks.

Politics matters even at our level.

 

@DragsterDriver

16 hours ago, DragsterDriver said:

I waited 5 months for the write up of my pre app ... they called back in a flap ...

@saveasteading

18 hours ago, saveasteading said:

...

They have to spend a disproportionate time dealing with aggressive and determined housing developers,..... They are then bombarded with objections from the current residents, and perhaps have some sort of pressure from their employer who wants the development...Meanwhile they have to deal with councillors, who wander in and can demand attention....

@Tosh

On 27/05/2021 at 22:03, Tosh said:

... They laughed and said ' you'll be lucky,  our councilor? he's a 80 year old farmer, he doesn't know what email is and hasn't got a computer'. Explains why I never got a response from him!

@AliG

Quote

... Consistently the architect has said that we have to keep them onside,...

@the_r_sole

Quote

... If you complain about it, you're going to get the same level of terrible service, I usually try to keep them on side but there's a point when that goes out the window!

@MortarThePoint  -

 

The Key point in my view 

Quote

...  they miss the human consequences sometimes

 

If the Planner's own mum and dads were applying for Planning Permission - even if the Planner recused him or herself - you could bet your bottom dollar everything in the process would be bang on time at the very latest.

 

Golf courses are very important places.

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 I usually try to keep them on side but there's a point when that goes out the window!

 

Agreed, this is my attitude too.

I try to make their decision easy, with all the information they will need, but not too much either.

I hope that when they first stamp it in, they notice that it will be straight-forward.

 

But then if they simply ignore it, it is time to make a fuss, and make it worth their while (I mean time efficiency) to just do it.

 

If no progress, then it is legitimate to start the job, with the risk of pulling it down again, so depends on the likelihood of approval.

 

There may well be other applications jumping the queue because of pressure from councillors and big developers.  We little people have to decide to accept that or find another way forward. It is the system , not usually the planning officers personally.

When they  ask for an extension of time, otherwise it will be  a refusal, then that is naughty. But I know why they are doing it, and a deadline can often be agreed.

 

What to do? Speak to your Councillor and MP. In principle they work for you.

 

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Posted (edited)

Big news.

 

The variation and carport planing application are now approved.

 

The planning officer sent me an email saying that he would process both the variation and carport approval at the same time.

 

The comment deadline for the carport was 11th of June. The Monday after this it went to awaiting decision and was approved on 28th of June.

 

So that was good.

 

But despite putting in writing that he would do the variation at the same time, it did not come through.

 

Last week I started to try and figure out what was wrong.

 

Called and emailed the planner - ignored.

 

My mum emailed him from her council email address as she works for them part time - ignored.

 

Called his boss - phone permanently on voice mail.

 

Called the planning helpline which is not supposed to be open but is - Told they would send the planner a message to contact me - ignored

 

Called again - Told to try the head of planning as they couldn't contact the planner.

 

Emailed the head of planning and left him a voice mail - ignored or at least no response to me

 

Called the planning helpdesk again - Told me it was pointless and they would transfer me to complaints

 

Decided that now it was only 4 days from the determination deadline so I would wait for that before making a complaint.

 

Emailed the planning helpdesk as this seemed to get a better response previously than calling them - told that the deadline had not passed yet, but in light of the fact the officer had put in writing that I should have had it done over two weeks ago they would email him.

 

Approved two days later

 

This was one of only two variations from May still outstanding. The average time to approve a variation is 3-5 weeks. With a promised expedited time due to the Council's previous hopeless efforts it took 8 weeks!

 

I will be drafting a formal complaint now it has been approved.

Edited by AliG
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23 minutes ago, AliG said:

Big news.

 

The variation and carport planing application are now approved.

 

The planning officer sent me an email saying that he would process both the variation and carport approval at the same time.

 

The comment deadline for the carport was 11th of June. The Monday after this it went to awaiting decision and was approved on 28th of June.

 

So that was good.

 

But despite putting in writing that he would do the variation at the same time, it did not come through.

 

Last week I started to try and figure out what was wrong.

 

Called and emailed the planner - ignored.

 

My mum emailed him from her council email address as she works for them part time - ignored.

 

Called his boss - phone permanently on voice mail.

 

Called the planning helpline which is not supposed to be open but is - Told they would send the planner a message to contact me - ignored

 

Called again - Told to try the head of planning as they couldn't contact the planner.

 

Emailed the head of planning and left him a voice mail - ignored or at least no response to me

 

Called the planning helpdesk again - Told me it was pointless and they would transfer me to complaints

 

Decided that now it was only 4 days from the determination deadline so I would wait for that before making a complaint.

 

Emailed the planning helpdesk as this seemed to get a better response previously than calling them - told that the deadline had not passed yet, but in light of the fact the officer had put in writing that I should have had it done over two weeks ago they would email him.

 

Approved two days later

 

This was one of only two variations from May still outstanding. The average time to approve a variation is 3-5 weeks. With a promised expedited time due to the Council's previous hopeless efforts it took 8 weeks!

 

I will be drafting a formal complaint now it has been approved.


that’s the bit I hate- they refuse calls and flat out ignore emails. Unreal behaviour!

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On 25/05/2021 at 18:28, AliG said:

Just a rant really unless anyone has any ideas as to how to sort this out.

 

Still plodding on with my parents' place.

 

On Friday, they noticed that their application to build a carport next to the already approved house was open for comments. I said this must be a clerical error as the application was made 12 weeks ago and the coment period had long since passed.

 

Emailed planning (they will not accept phone calls due to COVID and as of two weeks ago Edinburgh planning said they are too busy to answer individual queries about applications)

 

They emailed back that the neighbours had not been contacted originally and they had just sent this out. I was gob smacked.

 

The architect tried to email and call the planning officer for two weeks before the moratorium on speaking to officers was put in place with no response.

 

Prior to this we made an application in early 2019. After the 8 week determination deadline the architect tried to contact the officer and finally got him after 12 weeks when he said he was going to refuse the application without ever speaking to anyone about it and giving us a chance to revise it. We then had to start all over again which took months.

 

On the approved application last year, he emailed the planning consultant to say it was recommended for approval after 12 weeks. Then he said that they had forgotten to send out consultations and this further delayed things so it took a further four months for approval to be granted.

 

One of the consultations that was not made was with Scottish Water. Admittedly the architect/consultant did tell the planning officer that they had sited the house considering the position of the water main on site, but they are a statutory consultant. They  then emailed us four weeks before starting on site which has resulted in a three month delay, redesign and extra costs that could approach £20,000. The variation application is now sitting with the same planing officer.

 

Finding out on Friday that our application had been sitting for 12 weeks without the neighbours being consulted was the last straw.

 

I emailed back asking what had happened and could someone call me. No response, despite the first email being answered n 40 minutes.

 

I emailed the planning officer's boss with a summary of what has happened yesterday asking him to call me. No response.

 

I tried calling him today, straight to voicemail.

 

If I don't get him in the morning I will be trying to speak to the head of planning.

 

Consistently the architect has said that we have to keep them onside, but frankly their actions are disgraceful. My parents are 73 and 74 and distraught. They think they will be dead before the house is built.

 

 

 

 

 

get hold of your local counciller, MP and portfolio holder for planning. 

 

Sooner the whole planning process is privatised the better.

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14 hours ago, AliG said:

Decided that now it was only 4 days from the determination deadline so I would wait for that before making a complaint.

 

Emailed the planning helpdesk as this seemed to get a better response previously than calling them - told that the deadline had not passed yet, but in light of the fact the officer had put in writing that I should have had it done over two weeks ago they would email him.

 

Approved two days later

 

This was one of only two variations from May still outstanding. The average time to approve a variation is 3-5 weeks. With a promised expedited time due to the Council's previous hopeless efforts it took 8 weeks!

 

I will be drafting a formal complaint now it has been approved.

 

Important point: apply the pressure at a time where they can still resolve it quickly.

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1 hour ago, Ferdinand said:

Important point: apply the pressure at a time where they can still resolve it quickly.

 

I did this when I emailed the head of planning on the 27th May. What I didn't expect is that the planning officer would not actually do what he said he would do in the response to that complaint.

 

There is also the issue of being somewhat at the mercy of planning which is an arbitrary process. The architect was extremely nervous of me complaining and then the planning department becoming more awkward or refusing planning. This makes it much more stressful than a business transaction where you can take your business elsewhere or can exert pressure via social media complaints and so on. I think this lets councils in general away with acting in ways that no business would ever get away with. I am sure I am not the only person told not to complain in case it goes against the application.

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3 minutes ago, AliG said:

... I am sure I am not the only person told not to complain in case it goes against the application.

 

Nahhhhhhh, sure its just you mate.

Theres an art to complaining  Good on ya for having the balls.

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LPA's are all tossers......Full Stop. Whole system needs a re-vamp. Whole system need putting in the bin and starting again from scratch. Burn down the council offices i say. that will get some attention. A hooker and coke normally gets the planning officer on side. (you have to take photos)

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Posted (edited)
23 hours ago, AliG said:

I think this lets councils in general away with acting in ways that no business would ever get away with. I am sure I am not the only person told not to complain in case it goes against the application.

 

This is, indeed, the nub of it.

 

There just aren't enough penalties, deterrents and other nasty sh*t waiting round the corner for poorly operated, poorly managed, poorly administered LPAs.

 

Central government needs to come down much harder on them, there needs to be all manner of penalties both financial and in terms of powers being taken away, than presently.

 

I think even the most cavalier of us (me being one) recognise the need for planning dpts, planning laws, a process, a system etc but what we've actually got is a farce, with these miniature, £30k a year, graduated-two-summers-ago Hitlers wielding their power with absolutely impunity and no regard for homeowners, homeowners' vast personal investments in the regeneration of buildings and areas, and only through-gritted-teeth regard for what the Planning Inspectorate ACTUALLY TELLS THEM TO F*CKING DO.

 

How many signatures are needed to get something discussed in the commons?

 

It's actually good/bad for my blood pressure and circulation to type-rant about these absolute weapons-grade numpties.

 

 

Edited by harry_angel
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Our planning (back in 2014/5) met the timelines but when it came to getting the conditions approved we hit a wall and hit the 12 week limit.

 

I did complain and not only were the associated fees refunded but also the submission was approved - I doubt it was even looked at in detail.

 

In my case it ran alongside a funding challenge with the mortgage company so did not slow us down that much but was still painful.

 

 

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It's the inconstancy that gets me. Our original one was a nightmare. Our site is ringed by a lot of trees but mostly scrub and whins in the middle. He could not be bothered to go on site or even look on Google maps. Just looked from his car and decided it was densely wooded ground. He sent a scorching letter to our architect saying he was disgusted that we would even consider asking for planning. Everything was an issue. You would have thought we were bulldozing Stonehenge and replacing it with a giant knob. 
 

We ended up with a new planning officer who was very helpful. Took a practical view on things, was fine about taking out some trees as long as we planted some more, absolute night and day.

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56 minutes ago, harry_angel said:

I think even the most cavalier of us (me being one) recognise the need for planning dpts, planning laws, a process, a system etc but what we've actually got is a farce, with these miniature, £30k a year, graduated-two-summers-ago Hitlers wielding their power with absolutely impunity and no regard for homeowners, homeowners' vast personal investments in the regeneration of buildings and areas, and only through-gritted-teeth regard for what the Planning Inspectorate ACTUALLY TELLS THEM TO F*CKING DO.


Come on @harry_angel, don’t hold back, speak your mind 🤣. Yes I agree with you, and at the risk of repeating myself (cus it does my blood pressure good) I won at appeal and they told the LPA they were not abiding by their own policies, but as you say, no penalty on them. (Apart from knowing I won and built my house as I wanted).

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@AliG you have my full hearted empathy and support. We bought our house in Aug 2018 and had put in a planning application by November the same year. In our original design we included space for a pram to be stored in the new porch, on the basis that we were hoping to have another child. It took so long to get planning, that by the time the house is redone, our second child will be almost 3 years old. He started walking at 13 months and I doubt he will need the buggy by then! 
This country’s planning system is a mess. But then it’s not surprising when salaries in the sector are so low. Pay peanuts get monkeys. Add in the public sector angle and the monkeys become lazy. Covid is a great excuse for such an apathetic area of the public sector. 
Not sure what the solution is. There is a great foreign film called Wild Tales. In one Of the stories, Darin plays an average joe who is fed up of getting unreasonable parking tickets and getting his car towed. Eventually it drives him so mad he bombs the relevant municipal office. He is arrested and becomes a national hero for exposing the people’s frustration with bureaucracy. Maybe you could try that approach?

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3 hours ago, Ralph said:

 You would have thought we were bulldozing Stonehenge and replacing it with a giant knob. 

 

@pocster - that will be your new project then. Bit of walk over glazing in a tactical spot too...

 

1 hour ago, Adsibob said:

Not sure what the solution is. 

 

The govt have mooted a 'bonfire of red tape' wrt planning but it's gone down like cold sick in the home counties and likely contributed to their by election loss recently so that will get parked I expect.

 

Funnily enough, in our town a local developer is behind 90% of developments and seems to sail through planning every time.

 

Not only are salaries low but the whole LA ecosystem is underfunded by central government and they are loath to increase council tax as it's electoral suicide when the local elections roll by. Where you see a lifetime project of immense personal importance, I expect they see another application trying it on and I suspect some derive pleasure from squashing them.

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why make planning easy for tight ar@$ed self builders when you can get new houses, extensions etc etc from developers

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18 minutes ago, Bitpipe said:
4 hours ago, Ralph said:

You would have thought we were bulldozing Stonehenge and replacing it with a giant knob. 

 

@pocster - that will be your new project then. Bit of walk over glazing in a tactical spot too...

 

It does sounds like a dream project. My only concern is planning may put up a fight

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1 hour ago, pocster said:

 

It does sounds like a dream project. My only concern is planning may put up a fight

 

If you scale it from real life you should be ok staying within the max height requirements.

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3 hours ago, pocster said:

 

It does sounds like a dream project. My only concern is planning may put up a fight

Whack em with your giant member if they want to fight.

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