Fairness in Planning – the need for a third party right of appeal
Posted: 17 April 2010 07:16 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Congratulations on setting up Civic Voice.

When plans are approved against the wishes of local communities in the UK, unlike in almost every other western democracy, there is no third party right of appeal. Incredibly in 2010 it is about the only existing UK legal process that is totally unbalanced and is long overdue for reform. Developers and all other applicants have the full right to appeal but it does not even exist for the longstanding neighbour next door.

The right of appeal for third parties was actually in the Labour Party manifesto in 1997, after discussion at the preceding conference, but dropped immediately after Labour was elected. Civic Voice presents a great opportunity for a national campaign to introduce fairness, and consequently more honesty, into the UK planning process and ensure an even playing field for all involved. Planning committee members are only human and will always if even subconsciously decide in favour of the applicants side because they can appeal whereas if objectors also have the right of appeal the balance and fairness will be restored. Civic Societies everywhere need this tool to ensure that all their hard work in protecting their area is of equal status to that of the Developers, given a fair chance in committee and see that some planning decisions tested externally.

A third party right of appeal is an essential instrument for a lot of what we do and a fundamental way in which our “Civic Voice” can be heard and equally respected.

 
 
Posted: 25 May 2010 09:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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What do others think - plans for a limited right of appeal against the grant of planning permission are included in the Conservative’s “open source planning” proposals and likely to be subject to consultation soon.  A key ground is likely to be where a planning application is a departure from an agreed plan.  There seems to be support for the principle of third party appeals from local civic volunteers - do you agree?  Have you any flagrant examples where such a right of appeal would have prevented damage?

 
 
Posted: 25 May 2010 05:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thank you for drawing the green paper to my attention, others can find it on the link:-

http://www.conservatives.com/news/news_stories/2010/02/new_homes_and_jobs_through_open_source_planning.aspx

This presents a great opportunity for everyone to get involved in the eventual consultation and start to get a balanced planning process in the UK.  With the Coalition wanting ‘fairness’ the Third Party Appeals could even get all party support.

An initial comment on the grounds for appeal is that from my experience most local plans are often ambiguous saying “no nuclear power stations are required locally” on page 6 and then “there are clear opportunities for nuclear power stations locally” on page 16! Local residents will have to work hard on these and this is where the struggle may move to.

Another comment is that would success on the other grounds for appeal, incorrect procedure, actually give the Ombudsman the power to overturn the whole planning decision or as again in my experience just make adverse comments to the local council, don’t do it again, again, as at present?

That having been said it looks like Third Party Appeals could be grinding our way, we must do all we can to support them, it would be great win for Civic Voice.


P.S.  more info on     http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp2002/rp02-038.pdf

 
 
Posted: 26 May 2010 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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For those who want to look at the ins and outs of third party rights of appeal then the issues were explored well in a report jointly commissioned by conservation and environmental ngos in 2002 - including the Civic Trust.  Indeed I managed the project at the time when I was working with CPRE.  It can be downloaded here - scroll down to see the report

http://www.cpre.org.uk/library/results/?campaign=&format;=&keyword;=&month=0&offer=false&orderby=title&page=32&topic=0&type;=&year=0

 
 
Posted: 02 June 2010 10:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Thanks for your support Leighton, as you say the most important point about having a third party right of appeal is to rebalance the whole planning decision making process.

Although the third party appeal process may not actually be used very often just its introduction giving both sides an equal right to appeal will add fairness to EVERY planning decision made. At the moment even if developers do not openly wave the flag of a potential appeal (and its costs) to try and influence planning officers and committees, they are all fully aware of this one sided possibility and only human.

One Chief Planning Officer boasted at a public meeting that his department won over 90% of the appeals made by developers. I explained that he should be ashamed of such a statistic as it demonstrated they were only refusing developers applications that were so wrong the authority would always win.

The test of a planning authority behaving evenhandedly would be for them to win 50% of appeals and to lose 50% and the presence of a third party right of appeal will help them steer a fairer and more even course.

 
 
Posted: 02 June 2010 08:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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This is an idea whose time has come.  In Swindon there are a number of major developments that would have been subject to appeal by local groups if not individuals, including our 1854 Mechanics’ Institution which features on both Victorian Society and Theatres Trusts Top Ten lists.  This would make a good example, as you asked for them.

The issue of costs, however, is a big one for grassroots groups; as it is for councils too, which accounts for too many approval.

Could there be a review process that assesses issues on the way to appeal?

I am glad to see the suspension of the RSS process, which did not do justice to Swindon or to the places in the Southwest which WANTED housing expanisons!  However, putting more power in the hands of local people must not mean the local ‘representatives’ only, under the highly partisan an.d disproportionate voting system.  Real investment in the process of plan-making, ensuring access by people of all backgrounds, is needed.  Even with the new planning regime, the process is too front-end-loaded, and runs ahead of people’s awareness let alone understanding.

Swindon is a good place to look for examples of problems that need to be addressed; fix our issues and you will fix half the system.

 
 
Posted: 03 June 2010 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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If we are to make the case for a third party right of appeal in certain circumstances then we are going to need some excellent examples of where it would have made a difference.  There will be lots of developer lobbying against the idea. 

If you have flagrant examples of where planning permission has been given for a development with obvious negative environmental/heritage impacts in clear contradiction of the agreed development plan then let us know and Civic Voice will be in touch for more information.  Leave a note here or contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

 
 
Posted: 03 June 2010 05:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Please check the email I have sent an example of two applications in a Conservation Area.

The most significant thing about the right to a third party appeal is the whole change in the decision making environment it makes for the planning officers and the planning committees. If both sides have equal rights of appeal it should raise standards and they will have to make sure it is their best possible decision as it may be scrutinised.

In 2010 there is an appeal process for just about every other decision except planning.

 
 
Posted: 04 June 2010 02:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Just to look at this from a broader viewpoint, rather than on specifics, I can see how allowing appeals against the granting of planning permission could be a good thing, but there would have to be measures in place to prevent vexatious appeals.

If the right to appeal against refusal were limited, more resources and time could then be found to deal with the increased workload created by a new right to appeal against granting, though in certain areas only.

My preference would be to shift the balance of power back towards local planning authorities and away from Whitehall. If those in the area in question were given more ability to actually block applications, when “refused” actually means refused, rather than delayed until Bristol overrule, things could work better. And, under those circumstances, the more local planning authorities engaged with the community, the better.

As things stand, there are too many examples of applications being thrown out, with the backing of the planning authority, residents, groups and organisations, unanimously, but, as we all know, under current criteria that isn’t enough to prevent the development going head.

 
 
Posted: 06 June 2010 09:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Neil Baker, thank you for your support.

The purpose of planning permission is “to control development in the public interest” and so we must have the public’s / civic voice heard in the process with the same weight as the developers and this will never be achieved if the public can not have an equal right of appeal. To avoid vexatious appeals (developers sometimes put them in at the moment, and this must not be allowed to be used as an argument to stop 3rd Party Appeals) on our side the right of appeal could be limited to say owners of adjacent property or Civic Societies with a registered interest etc, not just anyone from Inverness. 

We need to go further than you suggest and get the power right back to the people/ residents who have demonstrated a clear and often long term commitment to their locality, this is now occurring everywhere else, education, health, why is planning so far behind the times?

 
 
Posted: 09 June 2010 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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The new anti Garden Grabbing measures look excellent and are long overdue, see BBC website:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8728633.stm

This will make the planning system fairer and it seems there is some momentum building to level the planning playing field.

We just need to keep up the pressure to ensure a 3rd Party Appeal Process is put in place.

 
 
Posted: 25 June 2010 09:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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For me the untold story of the Chelsea Barracks case is the totally unfair planning system we still have in the UK which was considering the development. If there was an equal right of appeal for objectors, like the developers, the story might have had the same outcome but without all the present linkage with Prince Charles. 

On BBC Newsnight just now full marks to a journalist, Charles Glover, for sticking to his guns trying to explain the planning process issues for local people despite Kirsty Wark’s repeated noisy interruptions. What were they all about? 

Perhaps Civic Voice could use this current story and publicity to explain the UK’s unfair planning appeal process.

 
 
   
 
 
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