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Suggested change to the application and enforcement of planning conditions for commercial and large scale residential development

Comment 10th July 2010

This suggestion is not to remove a regulation but to ask for Planning Authorities to be under a statutory obligation to monitor and enforce conditions they apply to planning consents.  The result may be that the number of conditions applied to developers may be reduced but they would be enforced.

National guidance on planning conditions sets out that conditions should only be used to make a development that would otherwise be unacceptable acceptable.  It follows then that any such conditions must be important, but they are rarely enforced.  In almost every town across the UK you can go to your local supermarket, housing development, industrial development or similar and see areas of tree or shrub planting with dead trees or knee height in weeds.  Many other aspects of development mitigation also go un checked or not implemented leaving local communities all the poorer and occasionally neighbouring individuals seriously disadvantaged. 

Many developers look on planning conditions as an optional extra and pay lip service to the requirements they have been set with a planning approval.

All authorities should be formally required to inspect commercial development sites annually for 5 years post completion (the inspections should be on a public register) and be under a statutory obligation to enforce conditions where a developer is found to be in breach.  This would add to the work load of planning departments but in time would lead to a much clearer understanding from developers they must implement schemes only as approved (which would then in turn lead to a reduction in the need to take action).  Authorities would then only apply conditions they could expect to enforce and the public could then accept developments with the confidence that what they see is what they get.  Some authorities would no doubt give up applying conditions – but this would be in affect little different from what happens now. 

The additional cost of this could be recouped through fines for the most flagrant breaches of planning approval.

A spin off consequence of this would be a marked improvement in the UK landscape industry as contractors would no longer be able to walk away from poorly implemented schemes and the UK Nursery trade may be able to get back on its feet and start producing proper quality plant stock.

This suggestion is targeted at only commercial developments.  The reason for this as there is a distinct contrast between how most planning officers treat the public from how commercial developers.  With a member of the public most planners instantly go into a Cap and Badge syndrome mentality.  With a commercial developer most planners start to open their top button reminiscent of Pamela Stephenson on Not the Nine O'clock News (there that dates me doesn't it)!


Why does this matter?

This idea will lead to more effective and fairer application of planning rules, thereby helping to protect communities and neighbourhoods from unscrupulous developers.  This would be good for responsible developers and competent planning authorities.

While it may increase the demands on local government in the short term as a small change it offers a big difference across the UK.  The direct consequences of poor quality developments can be seen in almost every town and city so are not hard to see.

Spin off benefits would be to improve the quality of construction, development in such a way that development changes are more acceptable to communities.  This may help with the schizoid position that most Tories find themselves in where they are keen on commerce but not in my back yard!

This measure would be of particular value to the UK nursery trade which has suffered from years of poor quality landscape schemes where only the cheapest plant material is used as the trade is often completely price driven by developers concerned only with the bottom line



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