Council give unconditional planning approval in error leading to unsightly extension
Objector accused of being an “unreasonably persistent complainant”
Ombudsman disagrees and says he should be compensated
Council accuse him of mounting a campaign to besmirch it’s good name
The owner of a property in Highfield Crescent applied for planning permission for an extension at the front and side of his house. The plan was rejected by the Council as being “...detrimental to the architectural harmony of the existing building...”
A second plan (3311) was submitted and approved. One of the conditions was that “the development shall not be carried out otherwise than in strict accordance with the plans hereby approved...”. However in error the approval document was marked as “unconditional”.
The extension was completed in August 2007 more or less in accordance with the original rejected plan and not 3311.
A neighbour, retired headmaster, Bob Batchelor complained. A Planning Enforcement Officer inspected the site and wrote saying “The visit revealed material deviations from the approved plans, and that the development as built is not in accordance with the planning approval granted.”
However the owner declined to take any remedial action on the grounds that the approval was unconditional.
MP Nick Hurd had written to the Council saying that: "On the face of it, something has been built which should not have been." He called on the council to review the case.
In a report to the North Planning Committee the same Planning Enforcement Officer stated that “it is the considered opinion of officers that the development as built does not materially differ from that granted planning permission. Therefore officers consider that it would not be expedient for the Local Authority to authorise the taking of Enforcement action...” The committee accepted their recommendation that the case should be closed.
Needless to say Mr Batchelor was not happy with this about turn and made a further complaint to the Council. The Council declined to respond under their “unreasonably persistent complainant” policy. He brought this to the attention of the the Local Government Ombudsman who said that that the Council should withdraw this designation, apologise for its misguided implementation of the policy and pay him £100 in compensation in recognition of the distress and inconvenience he had suffered. The Council declined to apologise or compensate him.
Mr Batchlor set up a web site and distributed leaflets to argue his case . The Gazette (12/05/2010) has reported that the Council has issued letters to 4,856 homes in the area - at a cost of £2,658.16 - stating Mr Batchelor's leaflet was 'a concerted campaign to besmirch the good name of the council”
His response has been to produce a booklet summarising the whole affair.