Advice on objecting to planning application

(7 Posts)
chocciechip Sat 20-Feb-16 18:36:39

I'd appreciate some insight on this. Apologies for the length but its a bit complicated.

There is an infill development area in our village which has five houses built so far and two plots remaining. They are of typical peri-urban estate development design, but very big. Planning permission has been granted in stages rather than for the whole area (we think to get around infill development limits at the time). The first 3 struggled to get approval and were initially rejected because they were out of character with the area, out of scale, and would require a small woodland to be felled. To give you a sense of the strength of the refusal, here's some text (copied from other letters written to the council):

The case officer's report noted: "The site is situated on land above the main road and the houses would be highly prominent on the landscape. The total visual effect of this proposal would be to create a suburban enclave in this rural area." It states that "the height, design and scale of the proposed dwellings would be out of keeping with other residential properties in the surrounding area [and] would, therefore, be detrimental to the visual amenities of the area". The landscape consultation stated that, "housing at this location has the potential to cause a disproportionately large visual impact" and that the "total visual impact would be to create a suburban enclave, in full view of the A701, in an otherwise rural area".

The applicant requested that the application was continued to allow him to resolve the issues. He got a tree survey done and planning was approved with a strict condition that 96 out of the 159 identified trees would be kept. These are quotes from the decision letter (it went to committee) - again copied from another document:

The report for this again recognises that one-and-a-half-storey buildings are not typical of the wider settlement area. This time it states: "It is considered that the height, design and scale of the proposed dwellings would only be acceptable if the houses were located within a woodland setting". It notes that if the sites were exposed, that "The houses would then have been out of keeping with the character of the area". The Landscape Architect still opposed the development: "The Council's Landscape Architect believes that any development within this woodland area is undesirable in landscape terms".

Long story cut a bit short... the trees were taken out at some point between 2003 when the decision was made and 2007 when planning was put in for the next two. Only 13 trees remain. The houses are totally exposed with all the impact envisaged.

Next phase (2007) sees a different case officer for the next two buildings... permission was granted for buildings even bigger than the first three; but there was no mention of the condition on the first three, no mention of the fact trees had been removed, and no request (that we can see) for a landscape consultation, no discussion of the risks flagged by the first three. The buildings were built and they are massive and the stated risks have materialised.

The same happened for the next two plots, but permission expired. *This is the application in question now*: a new application for two more very big houses on sites even more exposed. This time the houses butt up against two of the oldest buildings in the village including a low scale traditional cottage and a 1930s villa with art deco features (unfortunately not listed). Also has three bungalows as neighbours. These buildings will be totally dominated. The new development is at the front of a settlement and on a hill. The only houses visible for miles are these new ones. They tower over the treeline because all the trees 'screening' in front have been lopped to see the view.

Our village is objecting to two more, but we're up against the fact consent was previously granted.

Given the history and sequence of consent outlined above, how do we play it? If two more go in it'll just be horrendous - there'll be a row of them on the landscape and visible for miles and these are boxes ... not 'grand designs' by any stretch of the imagination.

What are your thoughts? What do we do? Our objection letters have photos of landscape impact, photos of impact from windows in the village etc etc .... BUT .... it feels as if the council just wants to renew the consent. And that consent was previously given regardless of non-compliance with policy and regardless of the very first deceion which initiated the infill development.

Both plots will be decided at committee.

chocciechip Sat 20-Feb-16 18:38:29

Posted too soon ... I meant to also include this line that the case officer sent the applicant just before the first decision was made: "A condition would be placed on any planning permission for the site that the trees identified for retention would have to be protected during construction and retained thereafter. The council would not wish to deal with requests to fell these trees at a later date".

Pooka Sun 21-Feb-16 10:19:26

If the current proposed houses are not substantially different to the ones granted in 2007 and there hasn't been a material change in the planning policies relevant to the site/proposal, then on what grounds would the local council be able to refuse permission? it sounds, from what you've posted, as if the committee may have its hands tied by its own previous decision - if they refuse permission on fresh grounds (but which would have been pertinent to the previous application, and which were not considered to have rendered the application unacceptable) then they run the risk of being found to have acted unreasonably if the applicant goes to appeal.

That's if the current application is a fresh application for the expired development granted in 2007... Or I may have misunderstood the history.

wowfudge Sun 21-Feb-16 10:43:24

Out of 159 trees only 13 remain? Is that right? Who took the trees down and why? Depending on the answer to this, then why have they been allowed to get away with this?

I suspect the damage has been done and this additional phase now makes little difference.

Cel982 Sun 21-Feb-16 10:49:29

Has somebody brought the unauthorised removal of trees to the attention of the council? Surely the developers would be liable for a massive fine for this.

origamiwarrior Sun 21-Feb-16 14:54:42

So were there no village objections to the 2007 application? Was that decided by the council or referred to committee?

I believe there is sometimes an approach where even if a building is not listed, if it is of significance to a village (which arguably those two oldest houses in the village are) that can be grounds for objection - google heritage asset. Are they in conservation area by any chance? That would help.

chocciechip Sun 21-Feb-16 19:05:15

I appreciate your comments, thank you.

We learned something new last night. New plans were submitted in 2006 on the 2003 development for the first three plots.

So, in short, the 2003 consent for the infill area was based on the trees being there to conceal the development (by committee decision and case officer A - the person who made the comments in the reports I cited previously). In 2006 the developer wanted to change the development (adding dormer windows etc) and needed to submit new plans. These were approved by case officer B. The consent for this notes that this is an amendment to the previous consent. The 2003 consent had not yet expired and was only ~2 years old, but the conditions to retain the trees was not carried forward to the 2006 consent and nor were any of the risk discussed or character issues as per the 2003 decision (really sorry, I know this is complicated).

Case officer B then continued granting consent across the infill area including the 2007 decision, based on the granting of consent for previous buildings. He also claimed the buildings WERE in character with the settlement, while case officer A said absolutely the opposite. (Case officer A is objectively correct by any reasonable analysis). Case officer B, to be blunt, either did not visit at all or lied. I'm not exaggerating how different these buildings are.

Case officer B has clearly not followed due process and made some serious mistakes, in our opinion. What we're finding difficult to understand is how further development can be allowed to continue based on mistakes. By definition, it is flawed development. Where does accountability come in?

'Precedent' is the only material condition that has any validity for the current application. And it is flawed, based on what I've told you. The development does not comply with any of the other policies or guidelines it will be assessed against.

One other thing, we have all of our local councillors on board as well as the community council supporting the objection. We are also in an area that flooded three times at Christmas, and the new development is on an elevated position just above the flooding plain (if that's relevant).

Can I just say, the community is not opposing development entirely. We're arguing it needs to be within the scale and respect the character of wider settlement, have no impact on landscape and not detract from immediate neighbouring properties etc. We were told by one of our concillors that if this was straightforward the council would have approved it very quickly; she suggested that fact it is taking so long means they're struggling with it.

pooka The application is a fresh application for the one expired in 2007. The development is not significantly different, BUT new guidelines were adopted in 2010, after the granting of consent for the 2007 development. We've been told that the development will be assessed against CURRENT policy and new guidelines. We've cited these in our objection letter along with current policy, and the development really and truly doesn't comply with these either. The 2007 decision was not by committee (only the one initiating development in this infill area: it was Case officer B. A planning case officer has allowed development to proceed that is a complete deviation from the sentiment of a committee decision. I get your point, but where does that leave the community and the landscape etc - all the things guidelines and policies are meant to protect - if we have a system where precedent as a material condition blindly rubber-stamps the decisions of case officers who get it totally wrong?

wowfudge That is correct. We used the original survey and walked around and checked. We've submitted the original survey back with our objection letter marking the trees that were meant to be kept and those that remain. It is pretty shocking. We don't know who took the trees down. We suspect the developer did based on what we were told by the immediate neighbour to the plot. He told her they represented a safety risk and that he would replace trees. On that plot he left only 3 trees. She was recently bereaved with 3 children and didn't have the energy to fight it, but was devastated. She now has a huge house in extremely close proximity to her single-storey dwelling, totally unscreened. Shje nearly cried when we told her the history. Her property is one of the ones specifically mentioned in the consent, in the context that one of the elevations of the new houses is VERY close to hers; it says she would be protected by the screening (!). He didn't ever replace any trees. We don't know if this was before or after Case Officer B granted a change in consent in 2006 (as mentioned above). It means that either the trees were there and case officer B did not carry forward the condition to keep them; or the trees were taken out and he did not do anything about the fact a condition was breached, but permitted the development anyway.

cel982& We have brought it to the attention of the council now, but we don't know if they did anything about it at the time. Neighbours at the time were unaware they were meant to be kept. They seemed to think that the fact the buildings were approved meant the trees were to come out. We've told them and they are livid. We can't see any enforcement notices. We're planning to put in an FOI request for full info. I'm not sure if there's a time limit on this and the council have missed an opportunity to make a fine.

origamiwarrier No, there were no objections. There were a lot of objections to the 2003 decisions, which initiated the development, which led to the 'concealed in woodland' consent. Permission was granted for the next two, and then subsequently for the ones in question again now (6 and 7). Significantly, 6 and 7 were done before 4 and 5 were built. Immediate neighbours to be notified would be the three new houses and the 1930s house. The owner of the 1930s house was the developer, so he would not object and nor would the people living in the other 'out of character homes'. The rest of the community at the time hadn't yet experienced the full force of the impact: when 4 and 5 went in it totally ruined the front of the settlement. It is with the knowledge of their actual massive impact that has made people object to these now. About 1/3 of the community has objected.

I'd really appreciate any thoughts on how we can strengthen our objections.

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