Local Authority Planning - A duplicitous system

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by mad_mac, May 19, 2007.

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  1. I have recently received notification that a next door neighbour is selling his garden to property developers. This is in the outline planning permission (OPP) stage.

    I wrote to the planning office stating objections about non conformity to the Unitary Development Plan (UDP - an enthralling 270 page document :roll: ) and also stating land irregularities. The applicant does not own a strip of land to which he wishes to place a vehicular access. It is council owned and is deemed as "open plan".

    I was shocked to receive the reply that the OPP was approved. This decision was taken by the planning committee (a group of 20 or so councillors), and bizarrely enough the applicants agent is an ex councillor.

    The current planning system is heavily stacked in favour of the private sector developer who have the professional expertise and resources to dominate the local planning process. It is grossly unfair that those who apply for planning permission have a privileged right to appeal against a local council when their application is refused. Individuals and communities who object have no such right. This imbalance reinforces the impression of the planning system as closed, remote and interested only in reinforcing the power of those with substantial property interests.

    Under current legislation, there is no third party right of appeal. (The first party is the applicant, the second party is the local authority and the third parties are the neighbouring properties.)

    Recent Government initiatives are introducing white papers to simplify the process for supermarkets to build out of town. The planning applicants have the right of appeal all the way to the Secretary of State, whilst third parties have no rights whatsoever. The cards are clearly stacked in favour of the property developer.

    The only option open to third parties are submission to the Parliamentary Ombudsman and Judicial Review. The latter is a very expensive option.

    To introduce a hypothetical situation, if Councillors palms have been "greased" at the planning committee stage, even at judicial review, the planning decision remains in tact and only points of law are considered.

    I find this appalling; the system is secretive and is liable to widespread corruption.

    Scotland has recently introduced a Bill for third party rights of appeal with considerable success. England and Wales have refused to consider it.

    Has any other ARRSERS had similar problems with lack of local authority oversight? Opinions welcome.
  2. Post or PM me with the application reference and I can offer some advice. Presumably you received a "neighbour notification".

    Outline planning permission is not full planning permission, there will be "reserved matters" requiring prior approval before development can commence, such as layout, scale, appearance, access and landscaping. These reserved matters require additional permission within 3 years.

    Also, as pointed out, there is no third party right of appeal, but there are other avenues, including ministerial call-in and judicial review.
  3. I work for a Local Authority and recently went through a grievance procedure. Whilst this was on a personal, dignity issue and unrelated to the subject of planning permission, I was surprised and shocked to be informed that 'Business Needs are paramount'.

    For the last 10 years, I'd confidently assumed that 'Public Service' was paramount. However, it seems that the goalposts are dancing around us, and that we are now working for a pseudo-private business that has to draw in income at all costs (including that of standards of service to the council tax payers of ************shire).

    Mad_Mac, this may be related to your experience, in that ongoing business relationships and income streams are ALL. New developers and vested interests that deal regularly with your own Local Authority will be 'kept sweet' at the expense of service to the local Council Tax payers. This is the new reality - and anyone who works for that local authority and still retains a smidgin of a desire to try to serve his local people effectively is in for a rude awakening one day soon. He'll have to fall into line or be targetted - then retire or be downsized.

    The new reality also says that a 'bronze standard' service to all, is superior to a 'gold standard' service to a few. With tight budgets, and staff being cut, I can sympathise to a certain extent, but feel that with Council Taxes rising year on year, the Gold Standard should be what we the public deserve and warrant.
  4. Means of access are indeed counted as reserved matters, however, when the land is governed by a restrictive covenant (ie: must remain grassed open plan) it becomes an issue covered by land law. The owners (the council) have failed in thier duty to enforce this covenant. This should have been considered in the OPP stage.

    I have PM`d you with my letter of objection. The OPP was a bog standard Town and Country (General Procedure) Order 1995 and a Certificate B was served on the Council as the landowners of the grassed strip.

    I am in the final stages of purchasing my land frontage (owned by the Council and governed by a restrictive covenant). I had to serve notice and change land usage from open plan to residential garden/parking at a cost of £300. This was allowed in view that it did not set a precedence. I will also instruct my solicitor to look very closely at the land covenant during the land search stages.

    It is all rather complex and has taken nearly 3 years of negotiation to buy my front garden. Constant legal threats and pending land tribunal action forced the councils hand.

    I am rather miffed that approval was granted immediately to the applicant without purchase of said land whilst I have spent 3 years chasing council phantoms.
  5. This is apparent with my local authority. A recent scandal was exposed whereupon the council had disposed of authority land at a cut down price to a councillor. The councillor smoothed the way for OPP and subsequently sold the land to a property developer at 10 times the original value. This was obviosly a case of duplicitous behaviour and would be construed as "insider trading" in fiscal circles which is a criminal offence.

    I am horrified by the amateur behavior of my authority; if the military conducted business in the same manner, we would have been speaking french for over 200 years!!!!

    The lack of accountability is shocking. I will be chasing up the minutes of the planning committee, although I doubt they will cast much light on the rationale of the decision reached.
  6. Totally unrelated, I represented a relative recent on a personal dignity issue and took it all the way to an independent grievance appeal panel, which found unanimously in our favour.

    Business needs are not paramount and guidelines are laid down at ACAS, PCS representaves, and are covered by The Employment Code of Practice (Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures) Order 2004 Statutory Instrument 2004 No. 2356 and the Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2004 Statutory Instrument 2004 No. 752.

    If you need assistance please feel free to PM me.

  7. Many thanks, although I think it's run its course now.

    Good luck with yours!
  8. I tried to send this by PM, not sure if it worked or not.

    I've had an initial look at the outline application and the proposals map from the UDP. It looks like what is termed infill housing, fairly common as many local authorities are scrabbling to meet their housing requirements without digging up the countryside, and there are no proposals specifically applying to the area of the application (conservation areas, etc) to which the application would be contrary.

    There's not much to do about the outline permission, that has been and gone, decided under delegated powers by a council officer. You can still object on the reserved matters application, possibly delaying or derailing the application (3 years to apply for planning permission for reserved matters). The objection must be based on "material considerations" directly related to the use of the land. Overlooking and overshadowing, design and visual appearance are material considerations, land ownership and loss of private view are not, and the design and landscaping information will be the subject of the reserved matters application. I can advise further on material considerations, the context of the site (design of surrounding houses, public views) is often significant.

    It may well be worth making a FoI request for documents relating to the application (such as consultation responses internally within the council, with the parish council and externally with drainage, if required) to see if there are any dissenting views - many planning authorities post these documents online.

    The future reserved matters application may go to planning committee, or it may not, as this depends on the scheme of delegated powers - how much authority the officer has, how many objections are received to an application.
  9. Many thanks MrPVRd. I guess its down to the Council Offices on Wednesday for me in the pursuit of information. This to me is what is wrong with the planning system. Objections are dismissed without reference to the points raised and a "generic" approval letter is issued.

    The decision is made with no thought to third party objections (at least at first sight). At committee stage there should be a legal beagle present to advise on such matters. Land law by its very nature is complex dating from the 18th Century through to the major 1925 overhaul of land laws.

    Its not hard to attach the committee minutes of the decision to the approved consent thereby at least providing a modicum of transparency to the decision making process.

    Instead I have to waste my time and Council Officials time chasing up the relevant paperwork with more paperwork.

    It worries me somewhat, looking at the proposed legislation to fast track planning applications with the perceived sweetner that planning is not required for conservatories, loft conversations etc, what the ulterior motives are?

    The fast track for all these new power stations perhaps???????

    Many Thanks for your time looking at this MrPVRd.

  10. From the Times.

    As stated above, always a hidden agenda!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  11. why are we neither shocked or suprised :x
  12. Duplicitous clearly...and iniquitous: heard last month from a mate whose sister works in the planning department of one borough council. She gave a presentation at work in favour of significant additional building on... their own parents' land!

    While she is known by her married surname, you wonder if it would have made much difference if she wasn't.
  13. Planners are desperate for third party right of appeal...it will keep planning consultants in business for centuries! :twisted:

    Some shady deals do go on, but most councillors who make idiotic decisions are pigheaded, poorly trained or misguided rather than corrupt. Most planners hold councillors in slightly lower esteem than the general public and would grass them up at the drop of a paperclip, although - in fairness - there are some good and dedicated ones. If land gets planning permission for housing, its value can jump up by 10 times or so, a nice little earner!

    Ah well, planning pays OK, you don't have to move house every 2 years and you get to play with maps!
  14. Certainly the case with my particular issue. Currently the land as residential garden is worth peanuts. Sell it on to a property developer with Outline Planning Permission (OPP) and its worth a bomb.

    In my circumstance, the gentleman submitting the OPP has assured me that only a single story dwelling will be built. Once the land has been sold (his house is on the market as well) to a property developer, this "gentlemens agreement" is worthless and the Property Developer will endeavour to maximise his profit margin, even if the dwelling turns into multiple flats. Descriptively in the OPP it only states "dwelling".

    I note from the VOA site that:

    These are in fact multiple properties treated as one dwelling.

    Hence in principle and with the applicants verbal assurance, I would have very little to object against, however, this would not stand a legal test in the courtroom. That is why I feel I must object at this stage, not because I am an ill tempered grumpy old git although my avatar may suggest otherwise. :twisted: