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Friday, 19 October 2012

Friday Guest Blog: ‘Why didn’t you ask me first?’

By Mike Gibson, Connectivity Associates Ltd

I took a call the other day from a chap called Mr Angry of that lovely little village of Upper Gumtry. He’d bought a nice piece of farmland with the intention of building himself a house, but Traffport Council refused permission and Mr Pickles had just dismissed his appeal. He’d spent all his pension money and was back where he started.

‘Why didn’t you ask me first?’ I said. I’d have told you not to buy the site because it’s in the Green Belt and the floodplain of the River Irksum, where there’s no chance of getting planning permission for a house. Then we could have found a more suitable site, I could have got you planning permission and you’d still have money left to build your house. ‘I’d better get back to work,’ he said.

It was a sunny morning when the phone rang and Mr Arkwright’s voice filled the room. ‘I need your help’, he said. ‘Salchester City Council have told me the planning application for my factory extension needs a planning statement, a design and access statement, a transport assessment, a ground contamination report, a flood risk assessment and a bat survey and there’s every chance they’ll refuse it!’

‘What are you proposing’, I asked. ‘An extension to my production area, right in the middle of my complex where it can’t be seen by anyone and where it won’t affect any car parking or circulation space’, he said. ‘How big is it?’ I asked. ‘950 square metres he replied’. ‘Then what you’re proposing is permitted development – you don’t need planning permission for it’, I said. ‘I should have asked you first’, was his blunt reply. I’d made his day.

Mr Smoothie knew all about planning – or so he thought. He’d told his architects what he wanted and instructed them to submit his application for a retail scheme in a conservation area. He assumed Rochside Council would love his scheme, they’d always said they needed more shops and, after all, he was only going to demolish ten buildings. Then he called me. ‘They’re recommending my application for refusal’, he said, ‘What can I do?’ ‘First’, I said, ‘Let’s look at the relevant planning policies and see if your scheme complies with them and, if not, we can revise the scheme or provide the necessary evidence to justify what you’re proposing’.

Together, we justified the amount of retail floorspace, revised the scheme to retain some of the buildings and avoid the loss of a protected tree and justified the loss of other buildings on grounds of public benefits. I then met with the Chief Planning Officer and a chap from English Heritage. I came back to tell Mr Smoothie that his application would now be recommended for approval. ‘I should have asked you first,’ he said.

So, if you are proposing a new development, be it a new building, a redevelopment or a change of use, please come and ask me first.

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