Saturday, 7 February 2009

Planning officers turn blind eye to unauthorised sales office

Page Contents
  1. What happened
  2. The evidence the Local Government Ombudsman conceal and the council maladministration the Local Government Ombudsman condone
  3. Photographs
What happened
 
August 2001. A developer, Senator Homes, built sales office (without planning permission) at entrance to new residential development. Planning officers were aware of this, but take no action.

August 2004. After the development was completed the sales office was left vacant. The site of the sales office should have been planted with trees and a wall constructed in accordance with the approved plan and Planning Agreement (section 106 Agreement). This was not done and has not been done to date.

December 2004. A resident notifies the Carlisle City Council of the vacant sales office. The Development Control Manager, Alan Taylor, told the resident that the sales office was incidental to the residential development and implied that planning permission was not required. That is incorrect. A sales office requires planning permission as it is not permitted development under the statutory Planning Regulations. Enforcement officer contacts developer.

February 2005. The Enforcement officer requests developer remove the sales office.

April 2005. Enforcement officer confirms that the developer will remove the sales office in April/May 2005 and that enforcement action would have to be considered prior to August 2005 (4 year statutory time limit).

August 2005. Resident makes formal complaint to council for their failure to take effective enforcement action within the 4 year statutory time period, their failure to comply with Department of Environment (DOE) guidance, and the council's Planning Enforcement Policy.

DOE Planning Policy Guidance: Enforcing Planning Control (PPG 18) advises ccuncils not to delay taking formal enforcement action when initial attempts at a voluntarily remedy fail, and councils should bear in mind the the 4 year statutory time limit. The guidance also states that the Local Government Ombudsman has held, in a number of investigated cases, that there is "maladministration" if the authority fail to take effective enforcement action which was plainly necessary and has occasionally recommended a compensatory payment to the complainant for the consequent injustice.

The council’s Planning Enforcement Policy states the Council will take action against significant breaches of planning permissions and against development which has not been given approval. But planning officers failed to take any action when the sales office was built.

September 2005. Development Control Manager writes that the sales office would be removed by 23 September 2005, and that enforcement action is not considered appropriate. The sales office was not removed by that date. The council were now time barred from taking legal enforcement action and unable to force the developer to remove the sales office.

Resident requests referral of complaint to a Board of Arbitration of local councillors. Council officers ignores the request and disregard the council's complaints procedures.

October 2005. The developer had encountered problems repairing defects in a sewer pipe in the road due to unstable ground conditions, and decided to divert the sewer across the site of the sales office to an alternative outfall. The sales office was removed to allow the sewer to be diverted. Had the developer remedied the defects in the existing sewer instead of diverting the sewer, the sales office would not have been removed, and the council could have done nothing to force the developer to remove the sales office.

Complaint referred to the Local Government Ombudsman. The Local Government Ombudsman declines to investigate the complaint.

The evidence the Local Government Ombudsman conceal and the council maladministration the Local Government Ombudsman condone
 
The attempt by the Development Control Manager to mislead a resident into believing that the sales office did not require planning permission by making a misleading and inaccurate statement is, according to Local Government Ombudsman guidance, maladministration.

Planning officers should have requested the developer remove the sales office or apply for retrospective temporary planning approval when they first became aware of the sales office. They failed to do so. That was maladministration. Council officers should have notified the Valuation Office Agency of the sales office so that it could be assessed for business rates. They failed to do so. These omissions led to the developer not paying any business rates on the sales office (over a period of 4 years). That was maladministration and an injustice.

The council failed to take enforcement action within the statutory time period. That was maladministration. It reveals the planning officers cavalier attitude to planning enforcement, contempt toward local residents, and a total disregard of the interests of the public.

Council officers prevent the resident from putting the complaint before a Board of Arbitration of local councillors, so as to conceal the complaint from councillors and force the resident to refer the complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman, in the knowledge that the Local Government Ombudsman may not investigate the complaint, or may cover up the maladministration.

The Local Government Ombudsman has found maladministration in other cases where council officers have failed to take effective enforcement action within the statutory time period. The decision of the Local Government Ombudsman not to investigate in this case is clear evidence that the LGO does not act in the public interest, are inconsistent in their decisions, are not impartial, and condone Council malpractice and incompetence.

The Local Government Ombudsman state they aim to get things put right if we find they have gone wrong...and put the complainant in the position he or she would have been in but for the maladministration. But they do not do this. They cover up the maladministration by not investigating, and do nothing to get the council to take action to ensure the tree planting and wall is built in accordance with the approved plan and Planning Agreement.
The LGO's decision not to investigate is perverse, irrational, unhinged, and contrary to the public interest.

Photographs




The above photograph shows the Senator Homes sales office built without planning permission. The area to the right of the sales office was tarmac and used as a car park. The site of the sales office and car park should have been planted with trees and a wall constructed in accordance with the approved residential development plan and Planning Agreement. This was not done and has not been done to date. 



The above photograph shows another view of the Senator Homes sales office built without planning permission. Protected trees (subject to Tree Preservation Order) can be seen in the background.



The above photograph shows another view of the sales office and two of the protected trees (subject to TPO) that form part of the established avenue of trees along the Garlands Road.