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Another Planning Office Fiasco

 
 
On 28 Mar 2008 at 7:35pm s.oliver wrote:
Everyone has probably read that the Lewes House application was approved on Wednesday., but may not know that part of the Application to demolish a listed wall, has been deferred. There was some extremely inapproprite behaviour at the decision meeting when planning officers allowed the developer's representative to interfere with the decision from the public area. An impromptu sign was made by the developer to signal a suggestion to the Committe who then followed that advice instead of pursuing a vote to refuse. This is just the latest of similarly flawed, and questionable planniing decisions.
Has anyone else experienced similar problems, planning office misbehaviour or attended dubious meetings?
 
 
On 28 Mar 2008 at 7:56pm FA wrote:
I've attended a few "dubious meetings" in the past but that's not for bradcast on a public forum. A web link can be provided for a small fee !!!!!!!!!!!!
 
 
On 29 Mar 2008 at 10:40pm Spinster Of This Parish wrote:
LDC Planning department have no loyalty whatsoever to this wonderful town. I'm not sure that one wise or sound decision has been made by them for at least 5 years. Disasters to date include,
Albion Street
St John Street
Castle Ditch Lane
Grange Road
St Nicholas Lane
Pinwell Road
Numerous change of use from business to residential throughout the town (killing the local businesses), especially School Hill and the High Street.
Planning application meetings are incredibly biased towards the developer (yes I've been to a couple of Planning application pantomimes) and the scenario that S Oliver describes seems to be par for the course. The meetings that I attended had the developers smugly patting each other of the back and shaking the Planning officers by the hand (first name terms) at the end of the meetings. It was a foregone conclusion that LDC would approve the Lewes House site as, - since when did they pay attention to the community?
 
 
On 30 Mar 2008 at 12:33am St Johns St wrote:
Not only was a useless (but valuable to the developer) unwanted gallery built, as a 'public space' instead of the tree and open grassed space that everyone wanted, but there was a voting scam. Two Councillors agreed before hand how one would vote. That Councillor (who sadly changed party, then left, then lost at the election) broke the deal, causing the other to rant furiously in front of some Lewes residents, who discovered what had been going on.
I heard there were documents hidden in the Albion St planning application, so that neighbours wouldn't see them. When they found out what had been going on, the Officers started attacking the reputation of the neighbours so that the Councillors wouldn't believe what they were saying, Eventually the neighbours found a copy of what was being hidden by the Council, which caused a meltdown, and they had to do the planning meeting again.
 
 
On 30 Mar 2008 at 2:30am SHS wrote:
The remit of the planning dept is (a) to meet govt targets on increasing residential accomodation, (b) to increase the tax base (high-density flats usually bring in more in council tax than business rates on the same site would) and (c) to get developers to pay for 'infrastructure' improvements that there is no budget for. To me, the latter is a bribe, plain and simple. The planning dept have to consult the community but do not have to pay any attention whatsoever to the demands of the community.
 
 
On 30 Mar 2008 at 4:53am expat two wrote:
Section 206 agreements, which "get developers to pay for 'infrastructure' improvements", are hardly bribes. Why would a council budget for, say, schooling or road improvements or sewer upgrades serving a new development? Why shouldn't the developer contribute towards those costs? There's plenty of criticism of 206 agreements - inconsistency, lack of transparency, long negotiation periods - but they're usually levelled by the developers. Would you be happier if those costs were paid for by rates or taxes?
 
 
On 30 Mar 2008 at 11:35am s.oliver wrote:
Section 106 agreement abuse is perhaps an issue for another thread. The Art Gallery/publ;ic space in St Johns St is a good example, but this is a very complicated subject. I am interested in simple blatant disregard for the legalities of planning applications.
For example, Another issue regarding the Lewes House site has now cropped up, after someone was accidently given some documents in a confidential sleeve. This also occurred at Albion St, when the confidential papers included a key recommendation of refusal from the Highway authority that was being hidden, and an extraordinary libellous e-mail attacking one of the objectors.
 
 
On 30 Mar 2008 at 12:00pm Spinster Of This Parish wrote:
Time for a rant.......
Infrastructure improvements!!! Developers pay a token amount for things like children's playgrounds. The fact that they can build on a playground and give a few thousand pounds towards creating or improving another (usually requires the child negotiating several main roads in order to get to it) is farcical.
A more suitable use for the Lewes House site would have been to create public car parking and a public area in the centre of town - it's certainly needed (think of all the new properties squeezed into the town centre - probably 100 within 100yds of the War Memorial).
Also, the future need for the library to expand is probable (given the rapid population growth in Lewes), so it would wise to keep the land available for that scenario and put it to good use (as above) in the interim period.
Section 106 agreements - these are manipulated to suit LDC and developers targets. When the Fire Brigade were approached about the Baxter's site, they categorically stated in writing that they could not gain access with an appliance from either end of the lane, so it was decided to put a sprinkler system in the new buildings - b*gger the safety of others in the local area.
Population of Lewes? - last official figure that I saw was in the region of 16,000, but when LDC recently advertised the sale of 3 Fisher Street, the advertising gumph stated that the population is approaching 24,000. Who should we believe? Certainly not the District Council!
 
 
On 30 Mar 2008 at 12:03pm Spinster Of This Parish wrote:
And another thing.........
There is little point in seeking justice through the Ombudsman route - allegedly an independent view but funded (and biased) by local government.
Ironic that Lewes is the birthplace of British democracy, but that we suffer at the hands of one of the least democratic systems.
 
 
On 30 Mar 2008 at 10:44pm s.oliver wrote:
Regarding lewes House.
It gets worse. The Councillors at the meeting had already voted to refuse the application before the developer intervened (8-2 to refuse) the deferral was not voted upon, and they had already taken a decision anyway. The matter is being referred to the District Solicitor, and we are yet to learn why Officers allowed this, and why the Council's legal representative at the meeting did not advise that a deferral was not possible why an unvoted for deferral was not possible, unless there had been a mistake.
What is so apalling is that we are paying for this ineptitude, and some of us have voted for these Councillors .
 
 
On 31 Mar 2008 at 6:59pm SHS wrote:
Re infrastructure improvements and bribes. My point is, how can councillors and council officers make a fair an un-biased decision when they know that if they say yes to a developer, they will save money and be closer to meeting govt targets? Perhaps some receive bonus payments if govt targets are met and finances are in good shape? To me, a developer offering to make any form of payment in return for planning approval is a bribe.
 
 
On 31 Mar 2008 at 11:24pm Spinster Of This Parish wrote:
Another conspiracy theory...........
Was the decision to approve Lewes House site rushed through before the end of the financial year because LDC may have faced losing grant to build new homes from central government? If so, that could be interpreted as blackmail from central government to force local authorities to conform to their ideas.
 
 
On 3 Apr 2008 at 11:13pm Cllr Ian Eiloart wrote:
S. Oliver's recollection of the votes that occurred at the meeting differ from mine. Discussion of the item was somewhat difficult to follow, particularly if one hasn't sat through several such meetings.
A planning application meeting can reach one of three verdicts on an application: approval, rejection or deferral.
The first motion put to the committee on this application (for demolition of a wall that separates two parts of Lewes House garden) was a proposal to approve the application. The motion was lost (with three votes in favour, not two). However, that doesn't mean that the application was automatically rejected, because there were two other possibilities.
A second motion was put, to reject the application. In the discussion that ensued no seconder was found. We discussed the possibility of deferral to allow the developers to return with a plan to retain some of the wall if possible. It became apparent that this was feasible, and the motion to reject was withdrawn. It's my belief that - having voted to approve the main application - the committee did not want to jeopardise the development by insisting on the retention of all of this wall, but did want to protect as much of it as possible.
A third motion was put, to defer the application. It was put to the vote and passed.
It's true that the developer wrote a sign, but it's also true that non-speaking objectors were carrying signs. The sign was not asking for deferral, but suggesting delegation to officers. On the advice of officers, we did not make such a delegation.
 
 
On 4 Apr 2008 at 1:28am s.oliver wrote:
Dear Cllr Eillart,
As you will see from above there have been numerous controversial applications, and residents have become fed up with Officers making mistakes. You will perhaps know about some of the more notorious ones. I am a little surprised that you have remebered the meeting differently from others, but the intervention by the developer was dramatic and may have blurred the detail.
Aren't you rather surprised that the Solicitor present didn't take any notice of the developers outburst, and rather improperly ignored it? It seems to me that that in itself is professional misconduct. Isn't it the solicitor's responsibilty to prevent intervention by the developer after his two minute presentation, as this which might invalidate the decision? It seems rather convenient that he should quietly allow him to interfere, write a sign and hold it up to Councillors, whilst objectors were behaving properly and honestly. I would have hope that a councillor would make a complaint about such a failure.
I am not guite sure why you would take notice of the developers suggestion to defer to officers, was there a particular procedural reason?
If you speak with members of the Lewes House group they will be more than happy to explain to you their concerns about the current application and I can post their details here.I am concerned that no one on the PAC is listening to them
I wfor one ould like to be reassured.
s. Oliver
 
 
On 4 Apr 2008 at 10:51am Apalled resident wrote:
I wasn't at theis meeting, but my neighbour was. What apalled her was the way in which the developer interfered, and the soilicitor did nothing. Why were officers letting this idiot make such a fuss? Isn't the solicitor supposed to be taking special note of what happens to avoid illegality? Was he having a snooze? or had he popped out for a cigarette? I am really not worried what is approved as long as it is done properly and legally. It is a disgrace, and I would expect my Councillors to do something about it.
 
 
On 4 Apr 2008 at 5:40pm Tony Nunn wrote:
My partner and I attended the Lewes House site Planning committee meeting and were appalled at the way it was conducted!
It was obvious from the start that the decision to pass the application had already been taken at the meeting held the day before between the Planning Dept. and the Councillors.
There was very little debate and certainly no thought shown for the very serious objections to this project from concerned residents or other statutory bodies such as ESCC Highways Dept., Southern Water or the Town Council.
Cllr. Eiloart was more concerned that someone had used the word 'ghettoization' than for what was good for the town of Lewes!
As to the disputed wall; our recollection is that it was to be saved by a vote of at least 7 to 3 but it may have been more. But it most certainly was a convincing majority.
Great concern ensued amongst the Planning Officers and the developers representative, who was allowed to contribute where others were not! Then it was suggested that they go for deferral and it was accepted without a vote! Much to the delight of the developers representative who proceeded to give 'thumbs up' signs across the chamber! You can bet your life they did'nt want to jeopardise the whole project!! Saving this wall meant no access road!
The true proirities of the District Council were then displayed for all to see when one Councillor asked 'if this decision meant that they might lose their grant toward the affordable housing' !!
I ask, how can it be ethical or even legal that the owner of such an important site, can be the Planning Authority as well?
What we build here is 'forever'! If this site must be developed it could certainly be done with a lot more respect for the area.
As the governments' own web site states, development can take place in a conservation area, only if it compliments that area. Can Lewes District Council honestly say that such developments as this and the infamous 'Printworks' actually compliment this part of the town?
Yes we need affordable housing, but not in this form. Let's make it something we can be proud of.
 
 
On 5 Apr 2008 at 1:05am geoff wrote:
I wasn't at the meeting either, but what I am reading is shocking indeed. I trust the Council to make good decisions, and think we need affordable housing. why on earth were Officers doing allowing Councillors to meet with the developer on the quiet. isn't that illegal? When did they meet with objectors to discuss their concerns? I live in lewes, and have tried to support the Lib dems to avoid a return to the Conservatives, but if this is anything to go by, I wonder if the town would be better off. Cllr Eiloart doesn't seem to be able to explain himself further, and to me it looks very unprofessional. What was this lawyer doing? It beggars belief.
 
 
On 5 Apr 2008 at 1:53am your say..... wrote:
i've been keeping up with lewes matters with the development and also the phoenix quarter. i feel more sorry for the residents who live near this disruption. It would be interesting to know the timescale for the benefit of everyone in Lewes. I don't want to live near a building site for the next ten years (jam factory). sorry not cynical...
 
 
On 5 Apr 2008 at 1:59pm Spinster Of This Parish wrote:
Timescales are manipulated.
For example, a temporary road closure can only be for up to 18 months - beyond that it needs to be a permanent closure. Developers and Planners will lie about how long a development is supposed to take in order to exploit other procedures/rules to their advantage (without incurring additional costs).
Geoff - Councillors have a poor record when it comes to liaising with developers outside of official meetings (I seem to recall one Councillor was caught having direct e-mail contact with a developer about the Phoenix Quarter a few years ago). Whereas the history books reveal that the LibDem Councillors have point blank refused to discuss and/or listen to their constituents' concerns about a recent huge development (including representing their constituents at planning application meetings).
Somehow I doubt that this destructive and biased practice has changed. I like Norman, but his Councillors let him down.
 
 
On 5 Apr 2008 at 2:13pm S.Oliver wrote:
I think that saying local councillors are letting Norman down is the understatement of the year. They are completely silent before during after planning applications. There is no legal restriction that covers talking about applications after the event. I am looking forward to an explaination from Cllr davy (actually Conservative) as to why she was clearly seen by more than e person communicating with the developer at the meeting. Cllr Eiloart at least has the honesty to admit that he took notice of the developer's sign, amongst the number that were there.
Just when you think it can't get any worse.....

 
 
On 5 Apr 2008 at 5:13pm M.J.S wrote:
I am surprised that Cllr Eiloart seems unable to make a distinction between signs held at a PAC by residents making a statement, such as 'Save Our Twittens' and a sign produced by an applicant seeking to influence PAC procedure.
But then perhaps he hasn't been to as many PAC meetings as I have.
Should a Councillor respond to such an intervention, it could be regarded as 'ultra vires' (beyond his or her powers)
 
 
On 5 Apr 2008 at 8:33pm Roly Mo wrote:
Sorry, being really ignorant here, but are they planning to knock down the wall into Church Twitten?
 
 
On 6 Apr 2008 at 10:38am Enoch wrote:
Yes they are!!
 
 
On 9 Apr 2008 at 9:57am s.oliver wrote:
It looks like Cllr Eiloart doesn't have as much integrity as we thought. The silence is deafening. . We have Councillors who do not debate anything at Planning meetings, make cock-ups, and then refuse to explain themselves to the Electorate. Whatever happened to the Code of Conduct?
 
 
On 9 Apr 2008 at 11:12am Taff wrote:
Inundate the Sussex Express and the Argus with letters and emails. If you have the named persons emails too then copy them in as well. There is nothing like a bit of exposure to start a sphincter twitching.
 
 
On 9 Apr 2008 at 8:35pm s.oliver wrote:
Our local paper is absolutely useless on political issues. It gains revenue from the Council and Estate Agents so will not criticise. Only the Parking scheme seems to get the flack it deserves. vSussex Express can consider themselves part of the problem, which is why I don't buy it.
 
 
On 9 Apr 2008 at 9:38pm Dahlia Rich wrote:
The Council only advertise the planning applications and so I don't think the paper will be earning much revenue from them. The Sussex Express never know what is going on, on their own doorstep. John Eccles used to just sit in the pub and wait for a story to come to him.
 
 
On 10 Apr 2008 at 11:13pm Agog wrote:
The planning office are demented. To attack a resident for making a legal democratic protest is the kind of thing I expect in Tibet, not Lewes.
 
 
On 18 Apr 2008 at 11:03pm foo wrote:
test
 
 
On 19 Apr 2008 at 1:57pm Barbara Abbs wrote:
I have just had a reply from LDC re the Walwers Lane development in which they say that the application re' that wall' has been withdrawn. What does thismean, that the developers are going to build without demolishing it?
I would like tocongratulate Jenny Mumford on her stand against the awful planning decisions we have had in this town. I am appalled that LDC can just allow Church Twitten to be ruined. What can we do now?


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