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Conspiracy and intimidation re planning permission what can I do?

(27 Posts)
iknowimcoming Sat 13-Dec-14 17:11:43

Will try to cut long story short! Just had second planning application we have submitted to replace crap house with nice house refused, which on paper should be no big deal. However next door neighbour has a group of friends and relatives whom he instructs to write in and object (we are talking about 30 people) so the council have to be seen to be considering public opinion and refuse us. On second application we have asked people we know in village to support if they don't mind and they have, one of them has today received a mildly intimidating but not directly threatening email from a prominent objector. Is there any action we can take about the conspiracy and /or the intimidation? So angry and frustrated! angry

LineRunner Sat 13-Dec-14 17:19:07

Your first issue is to understand the legal grounds on which the planning applications were refused, and then to work with Planning Dept to overcome these.

Any objections have to refer to these legal grounds, not just say they don't like it.

The second issue is how the objector got the private contact details of the supporter. Ask the Planning Dept how this happened - this kind of private data should be redacted if the letters are published. Complain if necessary.

ReadyToBreak Sat 13-Dec-14 17:20:39

If objectors are sending intimidating emails/letters then contact the police.

iknowimcoming Sat 13-Dec-14 17:24:23

The grounds for refusal are size and scale so entirely subjective, iit appears the council are either being bullied by the objectors or something more underhanded but we can't tell which. Re personal details - they are published on the planning website which is how he got her email address.

iknowimcoming Sat 13-Dec-14 17:25:44

Would the police really be interested? The letter is sarcastic. Us doesn't threaten directly just points out her bravery at giving her details!

iknowimcoming Sat 13-Dec-14 17:26:42

Sorry - but doesn't threaten ......

Pooka Sat 13-Dec-14 17:27:46

All letters, whether objections or supporting letters, will be on the planning file. I believe they are of public record, so addresses cannot be redacted. Certainly aren't in my local planning authority.

Planning permission has to be refused on legitimate planning grounds. If you feel that the reasons for refusal are not sound, then you do have the right to appeal. What have the planning officers said about what's wrong with your proposals? Or have they recommended permission and the councillors refused against professional recommendation?

Pooka Sat 13-Dec-14 17:29:37

Yes, scale and size are subjective. Just because they're subjective doesn't mean that the assessment is wrong.

Best way to test that would be to appeal. See what a planning inspector thinks.

iknowimcoming Sat 13-Dec-14 17:32:27

Size and scale not in keeping (it is) and overbearing on neighbours (it isn't). We are going to appeal but I'm worried the same conspirators will get involved in this too.....

iknowimcoming Sat 13-Dec-14 17:41:01

Planning officer also won't discuss case at all with my architect so won't suggest what we could/should do to get approval, appears to just read objections then refuse it, no discussion whatsoever, also considering formal complaint against her ....

Pooka Sun 14-Dec-14 09:14:49

So is it being refused by the planning committee (made up of elected councillors) or under delegated powers (by the chief planner)?

Its unusual for a planner or, more likely, the chief planner to refuse to engage at all with agents/architects about development.

It would be worth seeing whether the chief planner would respond to a complaint.

Pooka Sun 14-Dec-14 09:29:41

I think that planning reports should be available after a decision has been made. So that should show the thinking of the planner. Either in recommending refusal and it being refused then by the chief planner under delegated powers, or by the committee of councillors. Or by recommending permission, and that recommendation being overturned by the committee of elected members.

The report should refer to the relevant planning policies/the national planning policy framework and should explain how a conclusion has been reached in balancing the material planning considerations.

The reason/s for refusal should be clearly linked to the planning policies and the appraisal of the proposal in the report.

You say this is the second application to be refused. If the second application has addressed the concerns raised by the first, then I think I'd be appealing and coming to the conclusion that the council (either the chief planner, or the committee) are just not going to grant permission. So best to appeal.

You seem to have concerns that there might be something 'off' in the way the case is being handled. You're totally entitled to that opinion, but generally I'd say that would be very unlikely. If it's the case that the committee are just vetoing, it could be that the objectors are being given too much weight in the decision making. If the case is never getting to the committee and is being refused by the chief planner under delegated powers, then it's more likely (in my opinion) that there's a fundamental issue with your scheme.

The whole point of the planning inspectorate is that there is no local knowledge or experience - the inspector will not have practised or worked in the area and will be able to view the proposal in relation to planning policy with no bias (intended or unintended).

Sorry for the screed, and I know it doesn't really relate to your original enquiry. Response to that is that objections and support letters are part of the public record and it is not generally possible to object to or support a proposal anonymously. The planning file is public. That's part of the reason why I always say that the work of the planners is to imagine the legitimate planning objections, regardless of whether they have actually been submitted, because it's not unknown for people to not want to object because they don't want to antagonise their neighbours.

iknowimcoming Sun 14-Dec-14 09:30:26

It's the planning officer refusing it, haven't got anywhere near anyone higher sadly, both times she has just refused it no discussion at all, she even put in her refusal report last time that we didn't try to discuss any amendments! Am going to ask architect to push her to discuss what we can do to get it approved and see if she will offer anything at all this week. Otherwise am definitely going to complain. sad

iknowimcoming Sun 14-Dec-14 09:38:43

Sorry x posted. Thanks pooka!

Pooka Sun 14-Dec-14 09:58:24

I would definitely push for a discussion on how to improve the scheme. I'd be wanting a paper trail of trying to resolve the issues because it's unreasonable for the planning authority to refuse to enter into any dialogue or to refuse to discuss proposals with you, in my opinion.

If no joy, then I would definitely appeal. At least if you then get an appeal dismissal you'd have another concrete indication that the scheme is unworkable in its current form, and back to the drawing board. If the appeal is allowed, then fabulous! smile

Obviously I don't know what the issues are in your case. There might be incredibly strong planning reasons for refusal (am thinking green belt, new dwelling disproportionately large in comparison to original, as an example of there being a strong presumption against development). There might be planning issues that would suggest that you need a fundamental rethink. Or it might be something that is easily tweaked or that an inspector would find acceptable.

Good luck!

iknowimcoming Sun 14-Dec-14 10:27:56

Thanks, yes all points in refusal covered by amendments in second application. Yes definitely going to appeal since architect thinks we will be successful if we can eliminate the nimby element, if appeal fails then we will probably look at another architect, since he has advised us that our scheme is acceptable and within planning guidelines etc, if it fails at appeal I will feel we have been ill-advised by him. It is hard at times to overlook the fact that the longer the plans take to get approved the more money he makes ...... hmm

Moniker1 Mon 15-Dec-14 13:51:49

In this area before any planning application goes in the applicant has an informal chat with planners - thus daft ones shouldn't go in and minor changes can be made first if advised.

Why haven't you spoken to the planning officer/ asked for an informal discussion. It would frustrate me if everything was coming second hand through an architect.


LineRunner Mon 15-Dec-14 15:52:41

Are you relying on your architect for information or have you spoken to Planning yourself?

iknowimcoming Mon 15-Dec-14 15:59:51

No such thing as informal in this area sadly, you can submit for pre- planning advice, at a cost, but it's not worth the paper it's written on and just means the whole thing takes longer. The architect is our agent and is supposedly more experienced/better at this stuff than us so he deals with planning dept and copies us on everything he send receives, this is how most apps are done round here so nothing weird in that. I actually left the planning officer a voicemail around 2 weeks ago, still waiting for her to call back hmm

iknowimcoming Mon 15-Dec-14 16:01:58

Incidentally she only converses with the architect via email never phone or in person, it's all like some massive secret society. I have the rage today with it angry

LineRunner Mon 15-Dec-14 17:29:09

Have you spoken to one of your local councillors?

iknowimcoming Mon 15-Dec-14 18:14:41

Line - only when we first sent in the application, we sent him our plans and explained all the changes to address the previous refusal and objections. He only acknowledged the email never got involved more than that. He was however heavily involved in the previous app as the local loons got him on side and he called it in for committee etc. This time he hasn't been seen so we assume he doesn't agree with the locals but as he's not our local councillor (we live in a different, but very close by, area) I'm not sure he could or would help us. What do you suggest we ask him?

Pooka Tue 16-Dec-14 08:20:37

You could ask him to intervene in terms of getting the planner/chief planner to talk to you.

The email correspondence sounds logical to me - unfortunately planners at the local planning authority here have at the moment roughly 100 applications on the go at one time. Site visits can involve a day of hitting the streets and doing one after another. Phone lines to the planners only open for a few hours a day. As people leave, they're not being replaced. It's a nightmare. If you then have 15 messages from different applicants, it can make sense in terms of workload to fire off 15 emails rather than making 15 phone calls. It isn't great, but it's undstandable. Workloads might be different in your LPA.

Re the informal advice. Our LPA used to do excellent pre app advice, free of charge. Then the powers that be saw this as a money spinner and it became chargeable. But because it became chargeable, the amount of work involved massively increased. Site visits, meetings and so on in order to provide simple pre app advice, because obviously if you're paying for something, you want evidence of a great deal of work being put in. The by product is that our LPA charges for first app, but second is a free go, if permission refused. So increasingly, agents use the first app as if it were the pre app informal advice, and then use the second go to address issues from the first application. The end result is that again, workloads have increased for a diminished staff.

Moniker1 Tue 16-Dec-14 13:36:13

Are you sure there is no explanation for refusal?

Did it go to the area committee who voted against?

LineRunner Tue 16-Dec-14 15:28:20

So it did go to the Planning Committee?

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