Fruatrated by planning people

27 Dec 2008
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United Kingdom
Just that really.

We bought a house in January. It's a 3 bed detached on a wide plot with a flat roofed garage. Prior to offering on the house, we visited twice with a builder and architect whoi is familar with planning rules locally to ensure that (a) the build would be possible and (b) it doesn't flout any rules

We have plans in to extend over the garage. The plans are well within the local rules (for example, the extension has to be set back upstairs by 1 metre when in fact the whole extension is set back by 3.5 metres from the boundary). There are no side windows which will overlook neighbouring properties and one rear window which will overlook the gardens of a neighbour but at a distance of 13 metres, which is within local rules.

We have recieved one objection from the neighbour who claims he will be overlooked, though this will be at some distance, and the rules allow for that. In any case, the gardens are well screened and I can't see into his garden unless I stand in our existing bedroom number 2. If I stand on the garage and look from the perspective of the propoed window, I can't see past the trees. The neighbours owns these trees and claims he will experience a loss of privacy if we build the extension. In fact, his gardne in already heavily overlooked by his neighbours on either side.

The planning officer allocated to our case is unqualified in planning and has a background working in the dole office. He is expressing concerns based on the letter written by this neighbour. He is also suggesting that the side of the extension will be overbearing on other properties which lie at 90 degrees, even though these properties are 20 metres away and on a raised elevation (so overbearing on us). There have been no objections from these properties and as I said, there would be no windows in this side.

No site visit has been carried out, though I'm assuming this will follow and I hope it will include access to look at the rear but I can't be sure. The planning officer is suggesting we redraw the plans to extend over the front of the house in excess of 4 metres from the current building line (we have a central porch and he suggests enlarging this and building a bedroom oer the top, which would look hideous and contravenes all the local authority plannnig rules).

In addition, he is suggesting we build out two storeys at the rear (opposite end of the house) over the lovely patio doors in our sitting room, completely blocking our light and our current view of the garden. This would also impact heavily on our neighbour to the left as we already see most of her garden and would then be able to look immediately down into her conservatory and see her reading her newspaper!

I am so frustrated by this process. How can the LA publish planning rules and then question developments which are well within them? Why are they raising concerns that we will overbear a house when it's an adequate distance away and they haven't objected? Why would they suggest making such ridiculous amendments which then break their rules and have a huge impact on neighbours? And all this without a site visit!

Why don't these decisions go to a wider committee of experienced planners?

Sorry, need to vent.
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Has a decision already been made then? A decision would not be issued without a planning officer visiting site... fact!
The unqualified planning officer will probably know quite a lot about building work if his last job was working in the dole office. In the past two years he's probably had thousands of unemployed builders and construction workers through his door. :LOL: :LOL:

However jokes aside, I'd be worried that he's not qualified in planning and would raise this with the department he works for.
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If all applications were dealt with by qualified planners what do you think the unqualified ones would do? I would expect the architect to have contacted someone higher up the chain but we'll have to see what the OP says.
thanks for your replies.

Our architect has tried to explain to the planning officer that the proposed development is well within the rules and has drawn out the site map to illustrate that the window's 45 degree angle hits the very bottom of the neighbour's garden at a distance of 13 metres, since there's 12 metres to the boundary of our fence alone.

The part of the neighbour's garden that we are supposedly overlooking simply cannot be seen because it is obscured by trees and a fence. However, it can be viewed by the properties on either side of him so it has no existing privacy.

Our architect has brought alternative suggestions as suggested by the plannnig officer, as I described in the OP, however none of his alternatives are workable on both floors. Our house is a wide rectangle with a double flat roof garage to the right hand side and 3.5 metres from there to the boundary. To propose extending anywhere else is quite odd.

Our architect suggests we go with the plan and appeal if necessary as this will bring in more experienced planning people. I am alarmed that the planning officer is suggesting quite radical alterations (wildly against the LA's rules) before he's even conducted a site visit. I'm hoping the site visit will include access to the back of the house rather than a 'drive by' on the road.
You could approach a local councillor about your problem with the planning dept. I'm sure he'd be most interested to know that they have an unqualified planning officer working for them, and could/should/will raise questions with the dept.
Do you have any drawings/photo's that you can upload so we can see what the PO may be talking about?

And... just because a PO doesn't agree with your proposals does not make him/her un-qualified. Welcome to the world of planning.
You could approach a local councillor about your problem with the planning dept. I'm sure he'd be most interested to know that they have an unqualified planning officer working for them, and could/should/will raise questions with the dept.

Don't know why you're going on about this, many planners looking after small domestic case like this are juniors or unqualified planners, its not uncommon. In my experience Planning Departments seldom remove officers from cases. As previously asked though, has the architect spoken to anyone higher up the chain? The head of planning will not appreciate being approached by a councillor rather than the agent!

Firstly your architect needs to arrange meeting him at your property to go through it, not an unaccompanied visit.

Anything that can dispel the planners view should be used in the defence of the scheme. For instance if it is suggested that the neighbour will be overlooked, a photo taken from your proposed extension window position can speak volumes. This response needs to be taken for each point the planner raises.

What has the planner said when the architect has pointed out that his suggestions do not meet with local guidelines?

At the end of the day the planner will make a recommendation, it will be the head of the planning department who makes the final decision they do get overruled.
it will be the head of the planning department who makes the final decision they do get overruled.

Not unless it goes to committee.

Juniors do not have the full powers to make planning decisions, otherwise they'd be fully qualified to make the decision wouldn't they?

Every permission is signed by the head of planning (in theory), a junior officer's recommendation is unlikely to pass under the nose of the head of planning or a senior officer without a glance at least especially so if an agent has contacted the head of planning with concerns!
it will be the head of the planning department who makes the final decision they do get overruled.

Not unless it goes to committee.
& it usually will if you have objections; it can be more or less democratic, depending if objectors have any clout but it’s anyone’s guess which way it will go. For those that have never been to one of these delightful sessions, an hour in the public gallery speaks volumes about the “impartiality” & “knowledge” of committee members & the shameless lobbying by supposedly “well respected” locals is laughable; & then, on a whim, the “show of hands” will often completely ignore the planning officer’s recommendations & they are supposed to be the professionals. You can be up **** creek at committee but if they are just being stupid, it usually gets knocked back on appeal. I’ve lost count of the number of applications a friend of mine has won on appeal but he has the benefit of a good architect & solicitor; unfortunately most “punters” will give up at the first hurdle.
I asked the architect about him accompanying the site visit and he said this isn't standard practice - we would have to do it (assuming they ask for access). He hasn't suggested going 'further up the chain' since (I suspect) he likes to keep in with the planning department and doesn't want to get people's backs up.

The basic lack of understanding is astonishing - for example, the planner says that our estate was designed so that the houses are set wide apart (it's an open plan 1960's estate) and he doesn't want anyone overlooked on that basis. He is missing several crucial points, not least that the objector's house is a 1930s house on the main road and not part of our 1960's estate at all. And the owner of said house has just extended his property to the boundary on both sides, leaving 1 metre between himself and both sets of neighbours.

The thing that really irks me is being concerned that our house will overbear a property which will be about 20 metres away on a raised elevation and with no overlooking windows and no objections from the owners. Sorry I don't have any photographs I can upload.

The purchase of this house was incredibly stressful (it's a wreck - dodgy electrics etc and the vendor wouldn't let us get it rewired despite the fact it had been standing empty for 12 months). We have two small children and it's been one hassle after another. It really is an extraordinarily wide plot (the driveway measures 125 square metres and the front lawn is similar) - you can the imagine amount of land at the side we have as potential to extend - wide enough to park three or four cars abreast, easily and we aren't breaking any planning rules in order to do so. It's madness.
Your architect sounds like a bit of a muppet tbh, he doesn't seem to be prepared to fight for it yet is full of bravado about getting it on appeal! If the development meets with local planning guidelines he should be rebuking each of the planners issues. It absurd that the architect won't meet him on site. Heck there's even a tickbox on the planning form asking whether the planners should contact the applicant or the agent to arrange a visit!

Can you get anyone to write letters of support? This can help and can help prompt a committee decision rather than delegated.

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