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Anyone legal who can help on a problem with local planners (not whether an extension is legal or not)?

(36 Posts)
JillyJameson Tue 31-Jan-17 07:58:02

Can anyone advise, I will try and be brief but it is a planning thing so inevitably not brief! We are in disagreement with our local planning department.

- consulted planning before we bought our house about the possibility of putting a small extensions on which would fill in an L shape at the back of our house. Whilst they will never make a definite decision they pulled up all the planning history and sent it to me and thought it would be acceptable under permitted development

- We buy the house

- We employ an architect to draw up plans (part of these involve removing a chimney on the other side of the house which can't be done under permitted development and require planning permission)

- Go for planning permission to cover the extension and the chimney removal. Planning officer visits sites and advises us that he has consulted his manager who said we won't get planning permission because of the 50% increase rule and there is already an extension on the house.

- Planning officer advises we go for permitted development on the extension (and planning for the chimney - another set of planning fees are paid)

- Planning officer comes onto site and says our plans won't meet permitted development as the roof (from original drawings) is approx 30cm too high

- Architect re-draws roof to match requirements by planning and amends permitted development application

- All quiet, eventually I email the planning officer who confirms 'nothing to worry about' I've put it all forward for approval, it just needs signing off

- We get architect to draw up building regulation drawings to submit to builders for quotes

- Permission is due in 10 days

- Phone call this morning, 'sorry, I made a mistake, there is no scope for extension of your house under permitted development'. The planning officer's manager has checked and realised it falls foul of width restriction.

We have spent £3500 on architect (and he has yet to invoice for building regs drawings which will be several thousand more), approx £400 on planning fees. For nothing. All done on the advice of the planning officer gave us. Where do we go from here? We are fuming and really upset. Our builder was due to start in two weeks.

His manager is right on the regulations - he sent me the piece of legislation - so I'm not sure there is any scope for appeal (we were going to remove an old conservatory the footprint of which is approx half the footprint of the extension so that might help). I'm just so angry at all the money we have wasted though. We wouldn't have had even the first set of drawings done if he had advised us properly in the first place, or applied for the permissions and we definitely wouldn't have instructed the architect to draw up building reg drawings if we thought there was any problem ahead. We did everything you are supposed to do before going ahead with an extension, we consulted them before we even bought the damn house!

Do we have any rights? Can we sue the planning dept? (I don't come to that lightly but we're talking probably £5/6000 lost here). They didn't check permitted development legislation properly, they advised us incorrectly (even after two site visits) and as a direct result we have lost money. I have probably 40 or so emails which I exchanged with the planning officer.
I've name changed and kept this completely anonymous just in case.

Anyone got any thoughts? Oh and thanks for reading such a long post!

SouthPole Tue 31-Jan-17 08:04:59

No scope for appeal.

But you have suffered a loss due to the negligence of the Council.

Get all your ducks in a row and your evidence in order and get a solicitor to write a letter before action.

If it happened like you said, they'll settle.

MrsWobble3 Tue 31-Jan-17 08:28:14

I'm not sure that the council has been negligent. The planning officer gave you his opinion, but it's not actually his decision so if you went ahead on the basis of his comments then surely that's at your own risk. I doubt you have a contract with the planning officer for advice do you? I can see how frustrating this all is and hope you can find a way to resolve it.

JillyJameson Tue 31-Jan-17 08:45:36

LOL! Two completely different views. I know who I hope is right!
I do have all the emails we have exchanged as evidence and they will have a record of the two site visits.

There isn't any contract but their advice after two site visits and seeing the history of the property was still that we could have an extension on permitted development, we even altered the roof height to fit their requirements. Even last week the planning officer had submitted it for approval so it is his mistake, he didn't even know he got it wrong until his manager pointed it out so he has been advising us poorly.

JillyJameson Tue 31-Jan-17 08:51:36

Mrs Wobble - that is where I am not sure. We did go ahead with the building regs drawings without the decision because we had been told there shouldn't be any problem getting permitted development once the roof had been altered so that is a bit debatable I suppose. We took a risk but it was informed by the advice we had received.

Having said that we HAD to have the normal plans drawn to submit for planning (which cost £3.5 k + planning fees) in order to get the permission which we had been advised should be possible.

If he had advised us from the outset that there was no way the extension we wanted would be possible under permitted development - which he should have - then he is at fault.

OliviaBenson Tue 31-Jan-17 08:53:36

You need to complain to the in writing. Then you can take it to the ombudsman.

However any advice is usually given without prejudice and I doubt you would have a chance at sueing.

You could appeal- just because it is outside permitted development doesn't mean you can't apply for planning permission and have it assessed.

JillyJameson Tue 31-Jan-17 08:54:15

I think the key is he that if he had done his job properly when we asked for advice the advice would have been it is not possible for you to extend your property right from the outset, then we would not have spent any money on planning/drawings etc.

Gladiatorsready Tue 31-Jan-17 08:55:29

Unfortunately I would think that somewhere in the planners correspondence there would be a disclaimer saying that the advice is not binding etc etc, and therefore the Council would be covered. I know a lot of Councils have these disclaimers either on correspondence or on their website under the planning pages. If there is no sign of any type of disclaimer what you could look in to is complaining to the ombudsman (regarding the lack of a disclaimer which led to you putting your total faith in the planner) but you would still need to follow the Councils complaints procedure first.

NataliaOsipova Tue 31-Jan-17 08:56:58

Hmmm. I'm not legal, but I have dealt with planners. With our council at least, all advice is given "in good faith" but isn't binding, so I think (unfortunately) a legal challenge would be expensive and fruitless. BUT....the council ultimately wants people to use their pre application advice offerings, so they aren't inundated with planning applications which they are supposed to turn around on an 8 week basis. And this episode really doesn't reflect well on that or on them. In your shoes, I'd write a stinking letter to the Head of Department with the hope that they allow some sort of compromise with your application.

JillyJameson Tue 31-Jan-17 08:57:11

What does 'without prejudice' mean in this context?
We took advice in good faith and it was 100% wrong. We would have been better off asking the postman what he thought! Is there an obligation for planning officers to know their stuff? Iykwim!
We've already been told we won't get planning permission because we are in Green Belt and there is a 50% increase limit.

Thanks for the replies!

Gladiatorsready Tue 31-Jan-17 08:57:34

Cross post with olivia

titchy Tue 31-Jan-17 09:00:10

Can't you just apply for full planning permission?

JillyJameson Tue 31-Jan-17 09:03:20

We've already been advised (although their advice appears to be 100% wrong so far) that we won't get full planning permission.

Gladiatorsready Tue 31-Jan-17 09:07:09

In planning terms it pretty much means that the information given is not biased and has been given on its own merits without taking in to account no other factors and cannot be used as an admission

Gladiatorsready Tue 31-Jan-17 09:08:01

*admission by the council

OreosOreosOreos Tue 31-Jan-17 10:18:28

When they came out and did the site visit, was that a pre-planing visit that you paid for? Because if you did surely that would form a contract?

Disclaimer - I no nothing about planning law!

JillyJameson Tue 31-Jan-17 22:36:00

It wasn't a paid visit, no.

I just can't believe it would be acceptable for a person to completely fail to do their job. If a doctor didn't treat their patient correctly, if a taxi driver took their passenger to the wrong place, it would not be ok. They would not be deemed to be doing their job!

In this case a planning officer has given consistently incorrect advice over several months. Resulting in a loss of money on the behalf of the person he was 'advising' - surely it can' take be acceptable for him to just then walk away and carry on and his poorly advised customers to take the brunt of his incompetence?!

If we'd applied for this extension on a wish and a prayer it would be one thing but we had long exchanges with this planning officer before we even bought the property!
Anyway I am repeating myself, it's just so bloody frustrating.

MrsWobble3 Wed 01-Feb-17 09:32:43

The difference between your situation and that if a doctor or taxi driver is that in the latter two you are the customer and they have a duty of care to you. I think you'll find that the planning officer is employed by the council to administer the planning rules, not to provide advice to people. That's why there's business for planning consultants. Unfortunately you got someone trying to be helpful -but actually it's not much help as it turns out. We had the opposite last time we went for planning - an officer who kept rejecting plans but wouldn't tell us what might be acceptable "because that would be advice" which wasn't his job. Very frustrating for us but not as costly as your experience. Is there any chance you can get them to take pity on you and allow your plans in some form? That's the angle I'd be trying.

JillyJameson Wed 01-Feb-17 21:07:34

I understand what you're saying but the council's website advises you to seek pre-planning advice before putting in an application.
You would think that if they wanted you to seek their advice, they would then be prepared to give accurate advice!

We have sent a long email outlining the whole sequence of events, the advice we were given, the (non-existent) nature of the impact of our extension on the Green Belt. We're waiting to see what they come back with. Everything crossed!

SouthPole Wed 01-Feb-17 21:19:31

They'll try and fob you off at first. Don't give up.

Solicitor specialising in property here btw.

The fact is they put themselves out there in an advisory role - pre ap advice where I used to live was costly, not as costly but...

They shouldn't put themselves out there as experts and then fuck up leaving you massively out of pocket having reasonably relied upon their advice.

It's not on.

Sorry on phone and keyboard super annoying to use. Can't bear using it any longer!

JillyJameson Wed 01-Feb-17 22:39:45

Thanks south pole and Wobble!

We haven't given up yet. If we can't get the extension we want (or a reasonable compromise) I will definitely be pursuing them for the costs we incurred as a direct result of their erroneous advice. I think there is an ombudsman we can go through.

JillyJameson Wed 01-Feb-17 22:43:17

Southpole - just noticed the bit about you being solicitor advising in property (dreadful skim reader, apologies). Does it matter that this wasn't a paid for pre-application advise service. Just me asking questions and the planning officer giving answers over email? Once we had put in an application he was dealing with that in his capacity for the planning office - doing site visit etc.

JillyJameson Wed 01-Feb-17 22:43:39

Advice not advise.

MagdaS Wed 01-Feb-17 22:55:15

Permitted development is complex and there is new case law coming out all the time. That is why CLDs need to be signed off by a senior officer, usually (but not always) in conjunction with the Council's Planning Solicitor. The Ombudsman would want to see this process in place - there would be much greater criticism of a Council if something had been given a CLD when it wasn't in fact permitted development.

You have acted 'at risk' throughout. Until you get a decision notice you do not have formal confirmation.

It's not great customer service but it demonstrates that the supervisory checks are working. The Ombudsman would probably ask the Council to apologise for the inconvenience but you are unlikely to get compensation.

MagdaS Wed 01-Feb-17 23:06:32

And sadly 'very special circumstances' to allow inappropriate development in the Green Belt don't include 'the planner screwed up' grin

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