Freedom of Information Requests – a joke?

This guy thinks so!

Bollinger - indeed!
Bollinger – indeed!

Egotistical monuments or 21st Century design?

All the press reports about England having the most ‘bogged down and protracted’ planning system in the world are wrong. Protests and JRs in Sweden often mean that major projects can take decades.

The Nobel Foundation has insisted that a campaign to block David Chipperfield’s Nobel Centre will not succeed in moving it to another part of Stockholm.

The site, on a promontory in the heart of the SwediCapture4sh capital, was donated by the city authorities which has been saving it for just such an international cultural project, a spokeswoman told Building Design Magazine.

Thousands of protestors have joined a Facebook group objecting to plans for a “monumental building” in a “fragile” part of the city.

It declares: “We are opposed to star architects constructing their angular spectacles of glass and steel right in the middle of the protected historic environment, as monuments to themselves, at our expense and the city’s.”

I love this declaration.  Are the Gherkin and the Shard in London such examples of egotism?  Was the Cathedral in Exeter a “spectacle” of its day?

Does the planning process bring out the worst in people?

Throughout my career in planning I have trotted out the mantra that planning brings out the worst in people. I could be standing in someone’s kitchen discussing the neighbours or retelling the tale of a feisty committee meeting. Someone seeking planning permission makes people fight their corner, on both sides of the fence. On occasions this fight can vehement.

An arson attack on council offices in Oxfordshire last week is believed to have been started after a planning application was rejected.

South Oxfordshire District Council leader John Cotton said the planning department “has pretty much disappeared”.

So, does the planning process bring out the worst in people? Quite possibly!

Well I had an awesome summer of cricket!

Whilst not a member of Somerset Cricket Club this year, I did enjoy a few excursions to the County Ground and Exmouth Cricket Club this summer. I appreciate that I am a relative newcomer to this game and some would believe that it is sacrilege that I prefer the shorter forms of the game, but at least I know what a 4 and 6 are, unlike the High Court judge who asked what they were yesterday!

East Meon Forge and Cricket Ground Protection Association is challenging East Hampshire District Council’s decision to grant planning permission for an extension with a residential first floor over the single-storey former blacksmith’s workshop.

East Meon Forge and Cricket Ground Protection Association is challenging a decision to grant planning permission for an extension with a residential first floor over the single-storey former blacksmith’s workshop

Robert Fookes, appearing for the association, said that one of the grounds of objection to the development was that the forge was very close to the square on which cricket is played. He told Mrs Justice Beverley Lang ‘sixes and fours are frequently hit by batsmen on to forge land, including the roof of the building itself’.

However, the baffled 59-year-old judge, sitting at London’s High Court, said:

‘I don’t play cricket – what does that mean?’

Well, it’s like this…..

Inspectorate v Arsenal – match result – one-nil to the Inspector!

Arsenal Football Club has lost a High Court challenge over a planning inspector’s decision to refuse to increase the number of music concerts the club can hold at the Emirates Stadium from three to six.  The club had also been seeking to increase the number of major events that it could hold on a Sunday from one to three.

David Smith (who trained me at PINS) refused the club’s application to vary the conditions attached to planning permissions for the stadium.

The claim was confined to a single ground – that Smith was in error in addressing whether the club’s application complied with the development plan for the area.

Mr Justice Cranston dismissed Arsenal’s claim. He said

Planning decisions “should not be approached in an overly legalistic way but should be read as a whole, and in good faith…If that is done it is clear to me that the inspector did properly address the question of whether the proposal was in accordance with the development plan.”  There could be “no question that the inspector took into account all relevant planning policies constituting the development plan.  In particular the inspector summarised his conclusions on the application of each in paragraph”

Football is a funny old game!

Isn’t it a shame when the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing?

I’ve been reading about a young couple in Wyke who have been using a piece of Green Belt land they purchased from Bradford Council as a garden for some three years.

They bought the plot from the Council with a contract stating ‘the land not to be used for any purpose other than as a private garden‘.Land in the Green Belt, adjacent to residential property, used as garden

Image their surprise when the planning department wrote to advise that any change of its use, including its use as a garden, or anything that is erected on the site requires planning permission.

Whilst I expect that it was the shed and chicken coop that it most objectionable in such a situation, wouldn’t it have helped for the Council’s left hand to know what the right hand was doing? The Council have now been left with a PR nightmare and (free range) egg over their faces arising from the failure of the Estates Department to tell the Planning Department that they had sold land for garden and that for the purchasers to use it for the said use, would require the benefit of planning permission.

Such scenarios don’t assist Council’s in advocating our planning system to the masses.

Narrowest house in London shoehorned into gap just six foot wide must be demolished

The owner of the infamous property that shot up in a residential street in Leyton that was dubbed by the national press as ‘London’s narrowest house’ has lost his appeal against Waltham Forest Council’s decision to enforce the removal of the structure.

The property that was squeezed between a gap in a row of terraced housing was constructed largely from plywood, replacing a garage in early May last year.

Enforcement officers served a temporary stop followed by a full stop notice and enforcement notice requiring the owner to remove all the self-containment works including the bathroom, kitchen and internal partitioning. In addition, the enforcement notice required the owner to restore the garage to its original condition before the unauthorised works were carried out.

"I do not consider that the structure ... is of a high standard of design..."

“I do not consider that the structure…is of a high standard of design…it looks singularly out of place, in an area that has maintained its late nineteenth/early twentieth century character remarkably intact, and I conclude that the design of the structure is wholly unsatisfactory”

The owner appealed against the enforcement notice. On 28 April 2014 the Planning Inspectorate dismissed the appeal and upheld the Council’s enforcement notice in full.  “Although the unauthorised works carried out were considerable, they seem to have been implemented within a comparatively short space of time. As there is nobody currently living on the premises, there seems no sound reason why the building cannot be restored to its previous condition equally quickly. Three months should, in my experience, be sufficient, at a time of the year noted for lengthening daylight and warmer weather, for the requirements of the enforcement notice to be complied with…”

Not only that, the owner has to pay the Council’s costs.  Rather cuttingly, the Inspector noted “In the appeals made on grounds (d) and (e), the onus is on the appellant to make out his case on the balance of probabilities. The evidence submitted on both grounds was so thin that neither had any realistic prospect of success. Pleading both grounds in the first place and then providing no evidence to substantiate bald assertions amounts to unreasonable behaviour giving rise to the unnecessary expense to the Council of the time required to defend these grounds.”

Appellants (and Councils) need to substantiate their cases at appeal.  The award of costs is a real threat.  We have successfully obtained a partial award of costs against a Council for doing just that!  See our post here.