Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Condition of our profession.

Almost daily the writer is moved to despair about the quality of decisions and practice emerging from Town Halls. A reader has invited me to set out a recent experience.

His client had begun works to regrade agricultural land at the rear of her property and had, in part, 'extended the curtilage' of the house into that land. I know Martin Goodall in his excellent planning law blog would take issue with that description. No planning permission had previously been sought so an invitation to do so was issued by Toy Town Council. The application was accompanied by a comprehensive set of drawings including existing and proposed plans, surveys with original and current contours, and a dozen or so cross and long sections showing eventual re-grading.

The development applied for and granted (on 17 Feb) was 'Extension to Garden Curtilage and re-grading of land' . As some works had already been undertaken it was partly retention of and partly proposed works. So far so normal.

I was sent a copy of the planning permission yesterday and have decided to let readers to have a read, think and then laugh at this one.:

Four conditions were imposed.

1 Subject to the requirements of the following conditions, the development hereby permitted shall be carried out strictly in accordance with the approved proposed sections drawings bearing the date stamp "XXX COUNCIL REC'D 23 DEC 2011 DEVELOPMENT CONTROL" and the proposed site plan bearing the date stamp "AMENDMENT RECEIVED 17 FEB 2012 XXX COUNCIL", unless otherwise approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority.

2 This permission only grants planning permission for the proposed extension of the residential curtilage of the dwellinghouse (House Name) comprised in the area shown ‘hatched’ and labelled ‘extended garden curtilage to dwelling’ on the approved site plan (scale 1:100) and that area shall not be used as residential curtilage until the proposed fence has been constructed (and thereafter retained) along the western side of the ‘hatched’ area, in accordance with the approved plans, and the part of the application site to the west of the ‘’hatched’ area shall not at any time be used as part of the residential curtilage of the dwelling and shall only be used as grazing land for agricultural purposes

3 Notwithstanding the details submitted in the application, the development hereby permitted shall not be carried out and shall cease until a revised site plan (scale 1:200) showing the proposed contour lines of the re-graded land has been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The development thereafter shall only be carried out in accordance with those approved details.

4 Within 12 months of the date of this permission, a scheme of landscaping shall be carried out on the land, in accordance with a detailed scheme that has first been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The landscaping scheme shall include hard surfacing, proposed planting (species, densities/numbers, distribution, height, planting methods and implementation and maintenance programme), and boundary treatment (fences, walls and gates). All approved hard and soft landscape works shall thereafter be retained and any planting, which dies or is removed or materially damaged, or which becomes seriously diseased within 5 years, shall be replaced during the next usual planting season thereafter with similar species/numbers, unless otherwise first approved in writing by the Planning Authority. No lopping, topping or felling shall take place other than the routine maintenance, re-planting and pruning which is essential for plant welfare.

The Case officer asked for more information on 15 Feb (ie 2 or so days before the statutory period ended). The agent politely declined on client instruction that the information submitted was comprehensive. I have seen it - it was.

I have no doubt that the Council set out with the best of intentions to produce conditions that gave it some control over additional information and in theory implementation. Quite why planning officers cant read Circular 11/95 is beyond me. But even more so this quality of decision raises so many questions about this profession::

  • Why take so long to ask for it?
  • What do DC officers do for the 53 or so days before they open a file?
  • In the rush for a decision mistakes (in this case very significant ones) take place.
  • An applicant is left in a 'vacuum' of uncertainty because of the sheer unprofessionalism of the decision. (Although she might as well do the works as Toy town would never dare enforce them - so whats the point of them?)
  • Why are the managers of these people signing this sort of rubbish off? (the person in question was a DC officer of 25 years standing)

Ok Rant Over.

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