Letter from Kate Little at EDDC dated 7 April. This is largely a bureaucrat's response to what she knows is widespread local criticism of her performance. It is a typical letter saying "we are winding the handle and filling in the forms as we have been told to do, therefore we are doing our jobs properly".
Dear Dr Wozniak
Hamilton Garage Applications 04/P0496 and 04/P0497
I have been passed your letter to the Corporate Director - Environment Karime Hassan dated 15th March 2004 in order that I might reply to you in respect of your comments relating to the processing of the above applications. However first may I apologise for not replying earlier as I have not had an opportunity to deal with this case up until this time.
The rules for publicity for applications for planning applications is set down in the General Development Procedure Order 1995. This sets out that for this type of application the publicity for the applications shall be by either a Site Notice displayed in at least one place on or near the land to which the application relates for not less than 21 days or by serving a notice on any adjoining owners or occupiers. The Order goes on to point out that where a site notice is, without any fault or intention of the Local Planning Authority, removed, obscured or defaced within the 21 days the Authority shall be treated as having complied with the requirements of the relevant paragraph in the Order if they have taken reasonable steps for the protection of the notice and if need be its replacement. In this case I see from the notes on the file that additional Site Notices were put up by the case officer. Individual neighbour notification letters were sent to all those properties with adjoining boundaries on the north side of Church Street for both applications. In addition the usual press notice was sent to the local newspaper. Therefore the publicity for these applications exceeds that required by the 1995 Order.
The Site Notices suggest that people wishing to make comment on the planning application may wish to copy their letters in addition to the Town or Parish Council in which the application site is located. However it remains the case that the District Council is the Local Planning Authority whereas the Town and Parish Councils are consultees. It is not a necessary part of the process to ensure that any or all of the letters received by the District Council are also received by the Town or Parish Council or that the Town or Parish Councils may only make a decision after the 21 days the Notice is on site for has elapsed. I take the view therefore that both applications have been correctly and properly publicised in accordance with the 1995 Order, that the Authority has gone beyond what is strictly necessary to ensure that as many people as possible are aware of the applications, and that no determination will be made until the relevant timetables have elapsed. It maybe the case that timetables for different parts of the procedure expire at different times but no decision notice would be issued until the last date has expired. I have no particular information as to exactly how most people pick up the presence of planning applications near their properties but certainly the use of the neighbour notification letter has to be the most efficient system for notifying those with adjoining boundaries. The Site Notice has a wider benefit in being visible to passing members of the public rather than to those just directly affected. The Press Notice has an even wider field of influence. It has however been our experience that the introduction of the neighbour notification letter in January 2002 has been widely acknowledged to be a beneficial improvement in publicising planning applications.
Turning to your questions about inaccuracies in the planning applications, any errors of information that the case officer identified which materially alter how the application should be judged will be picked up by him and dealt with directly with the applicant. The description of the land will be verified by the case officer visiting the site and taking photographs so there will be no misconception when he comes to make a recommendation on the proposal. The merits of the case are a different issue and your comments in relation to this will be taken into account as part of the process of reaching a recommendation.
I will ask the case officer to investigate the matter of the tree felling and if there is any case that trees have been felled without the relevant consent should they be protected trees or trees within a conservation area this matter will be dealt with separately.
Please be assured that the District Council does not make its judgement on planning application simply on how a Town or Parish Council views it. We collect information for a number of sources, apply the relevant policies, visit and assess the site and eventually through a process of analysis reach a recommendation. This may or may not agree with the Town or Parish Council but provided that all the material planning factors have been taken into account in the process the Council cannot be judged as having maladministrated the applications. I acknowledge your concerns but I find no evidence that anything untoward has occurred given that all parties have been given the opportunity to make comments indeed well beyond the deadlines given that the applications have yet to be determined.
Head of Planning & Countryside Services
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