The general permitted development order 1995 is a piece of legislation which was designed to fast track development under certain circumstances avoiding public consultation and restricting the powers of local planning departments. Where it is applied to the matters it was intended to address ie small building alterations and the installation of sky dishes it answers its purpose and reduces the workload of planning departments.
Sadly this order has been written in such a way as to allow its misuse by developers such as network rail who have used the order to carry out some very questionable developments such as the erection of multiple 20 meter masts the length of the country without any consultation and with a "big financial stick" to deal with local planning departments.
The mast development has caused storms of protest up and down the country because of the visual impact of the masts and the sense of injustice felt by those who have been subject to the unfair and underhand treatment of the developers without any rights to challenge proposed sites or suggest mutually agreeable alternative sites.
The order has encouraged network rail to site masts where the act allows them to, simply because they can do so without the need for planning permission, this has often resulted in public protest concerning visual impact, additional costs (sometimes tens of thousands of pounds) to install services etc, and damage to local business interests, loss of value to adjacent properties (with no provision for compensation)
All of the above can take place at very short notice, without any consultation and with little or no legal recourse for effected parties.
To prove the point this matter has already been taken up by several members of parliament who agreed with their constituents and others that this matter requires urgent review, sadly despite concerted efforts the matter remains unresolved.
I am involved with a local group in Suffolk attempting to get a proposed mast site relocated by 700 meters along a rail way line, for the following reasons;
To reduce the project costs to network rail by a minimum of £55,000 (how much has been wasted nationwide to date, if this one project could save a minimum of £55,000)
To reduce visual impact from a local amenity area, the Broads, an SSSI, and several local tourist business interests (despite the fact that the order should protect SSSIs, the Broads and areas of natural beauty)
To save the installation of hundreds of meters of power cables along a local road (the site we propose already has power)
To move the mast away from local houses whose views will be dominated by the proposed mast.
Despite our efforts and those of local MPs (who still fight on) to date our local battle continues, a simple matter that would very probably have had a mutually satisfactory out come if planning permission had been a requirement in the first instance.
It is my understanding that fairness is the underlying premiss of British law, I hope you agree that a fresh look at this order could greatly reduce the injustice of a system that allows uncontrolled development without public consultation, and in many cases save a great deal of money and reduce infrastructure such as power lines etc.(as in our case)
With kind regards
PS The "Your Freedom site" is a great common sense idea.
Why is this idea important?
The order in question has caused widespread protest from effected citizens who feel that their rights have been taken from them, and that government has been complicit in this act, who have seen disregard not only for their views but also for their environment.
The order has encouraged developers to base their decisions on "what they can get away with" not what is best for all parties.
Project costs, particularly important in these times, are being given secondary consideration because the need to remain with in the order to avoid planning permission appears to be of greater importance.
There is a large body of people (type "network rail masts", "mast sanity" etc into a search engine or look at the cases raised in parliament itself) that feel that the present incarnation of this order is unfair and being widely abused .
Surely it must be worth a brief revisit to this order to consider the problems it has caused in its brief life, which must in turn lead to a rectification of its faults.
Although an amendment to this order will come to late to help many of its victims it will prevent future injustice and preserve a feeling of fairness where this order is concerned.