Lewes Forum thread

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they've done it again

 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 1:50am sashka wrote:
Yes, another Lewes Planning Department cock up . This time its where Circa Fish used to be. 3 inappropriately massive houses crammed in next to a childrens day care nursery. Just go and see the way it has been done to appreciate what is considered 'sensitive' in a conservation area. Planning Conditions weren't met, and theres now a money wasting enforcement issue arisen because no one seems to have checked the building when it started going up. The back garden arrangements, walls and a tree were subject to planning approval before building commenced. Guess what.......
I despair.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 9:12am Ben wrote:
You won't ever see me leaping to the defence of planners, and I haven't seen the houses in question so I can't comment on their appropriateness or otherwise, but it seems a little harsh to criticise the planners if planning conditions haven't been met or the consent hasn't been followed. It's the responsibility of the person building the houses to ensure those things happen.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 9:44am Taff wrote:
Is it not also the responsibilty of the planning officers to ensure that no misdemeanours can occur? The plannning Office is a guideleine also, whether the contractor is aware or not.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 10:11am Ben wrote:
No, it's not their responsibility. They can visit a site if they think something is amiss, but the beneficiary of the planning consent has a duty under law to make sure what they build is in accordance with the that consent. If they want to change things as they go along, they need to inform the planners.
1
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 10:19am Taff wrote:
Hi Ben, from some conversations I have heard this plot is not just about changes and variations to the application. It is also about tree pruning and listed flint wall abuse.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 10:27am Ben wrote:
Well again, that is all the responsibility of the owner / builder / architect. The planners don't have any supervisory powers, even if they did have the resources.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 12:09pm Taff wrote:
Surely it is the responsibility of the planners to ensure that there is no 'threat' to any listed features at the time of approving the build? How else can they approve it in its entirety?
You seem to be reasonably knowedgeable Ben, are there no concessionary regulations that do, may or should apply to any approval?
Or maybe this is the beaurocratic red tape way of overcoming any anti feedback during the notice period!
If there have been an breaches to whatever the 'listed conditions' are then I think they should be remedied by the contractor(s) and at their expense, including revising the original application accordingly.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 1:51pm Ben wrote:
All planning applications involving Listed structures have to be approved by English Heritage. EH usually then delegate matters of detail to the Planning Dept. A typical planning consent involving a Listed structure will require all sorts of additional information to be submitted to the planners, and may specify things which the planning officer will want to approve on site. It's up to the site owner / builder / architect to make sure these things happen. If unapproved work is carried out then, following successful enforcement action, the owner and builder will indeed have to rectify it at their own expense.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 2:46pm Nick H wrote:
I think this thread just highlights the lack of understanding that people have of the planning system and why so many on here seem to blame planners for everything. In this instance (and I don't seek to defend them on other things on this message board) any fault which may or may not have occured is the responsibility of the person who has been granted planning permission and is implementing the work. If there are changes required then the applicant must seek fresh consent from the Council. If a complaint is made about a site and allegations that the planning is not being implemented in accordance with the granted consent then the Council is duty bound to investigate. If there have been breaches of planning permission, caused by someone implementing their consent it is hardly fair or correct to blame planning officers.
I truely believe that a lot of stuff on this site comes from mis-information or only a partial understanding of how the planning system works. Problems with the system cannot be fairly blamed on individual councils or officers who work to systems implemented by central government.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 3:30pm Taff wrote:
so exactly what can be achieved after the event Nick? Rebuild that flint wall after redesigning the side of the building that now covers where that wall was for instance! Thats a very positive position to take isnt it and of course those with authority have immunity instead of responsibility,
Typical bloody council/government strategy. Reactive instead of proactive. Wasnt us Guv!!!!!!!!!! What a waste of my council tax contributions.

 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 3:31pm Taff wrote:
Ben please see my response to Nick.
1
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 3:44pm Nick H wrote:
I don't quite understand the the question, and the way to dive off at the end just makes you sound like a reactionary Daily Mail reader.
It is a very difficult situation, once someone has done something illegally there is recource which can be taken against those that have undertaken the work, at that stage it would become a legal matter. I still don't understand how you can blame a Council for someone elses actions. But anyway I assume the message board allows you to vent your spleen in a blood pressure raising way.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 3:58pm Roly Mo wrote:
The criticism of the Planning department on this forum really gets to me, because, frankly, if you have a problem, go and make it known in the department, rather than on this forum which the planners probably don't even read.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 4:00pm Taff wrote:
My point is that the reactive and possibly legal reaction is after the event, the wall or whatever has already been demolished. The proactive way would be to make council responsible and stop the wall being demolished in the first place.
I certainly have that kind of responsibility in my job.
the rest is spllen venting I agree though I doubt I am the only one to feel this way. Stand up and be counted, whether it is a good or bad achievement. Not just the good ones.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 4:05pm Ben wrote:
It didn't make any sense to me either, I'm afraid.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 4:19pm sashimi wrote:
The Planning Department can be expected to become aware building has started because they inspect it for building regs as it goes up from foundations onwards. In this case it was a condition that BEFORE ANY BUILDING WORK STARTED the plans for extensive decking built onto the steep slope at the back should be approved in writing by the planners. I gather this was because of doubts about the stability of the slope. The building is now 3 storeys high. If the Planning Department can't control a three house development in the most sensitive part of the conservation area how can they be trusted to protect the twitten walls at the much larger Lewes House site or a 650 home development on the Phoenix by a developer who has previous for running rings around a planning department in London? Whatever happens we mustn't allow the usual cover up - slapped wrists all round and retrospective planning permission for what's gone up illegally. These houses must come down especially if, as has been suggested, they have been built higher than has been approved.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 4:38pm Ben wrote:
The Planning Department do not have anything to do with Building Regulations. The Building Control Department cover that.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 4:46pm Nosey Parker wrote:
Sounds as if LDC's planning and building reg's department are a case of "the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing".
Unfortunately the planning department is treated with extreme suspicion following the approval of many inappropriate properties in the conservation area over the last few years.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 6:40pm Geoff wrote:
Building Regs is part of the Planning Department, they should each know what the other is doing, and both should adhere to LDC policy. The matter is a planning issue as Planning is responsible for the conditions imposed, and one would think that they might organise liason in such a small council between their two departments.
This application was approved subject to significant conditions that required details of the design to be submitted before work at the site commenced. They weren't.
When work commences the Planning Department has to be notified of the start date, so there is no excuse for not noticing or checking. The buildings are almost complete yet it took a Lewes resident to tell the Council. The Planning department seems to have either failed to notice, the mistake, specifically the lack of approved plans relating to a site one would hope that was at some point inspected.
That is pressumably why the matter has been posted Roly Mo. The planning department already know, and are unlikely to publicise their latest damaging mistake. We are just being informed of the latest failure.
This is not the first example of such a mistake. The Castle Ditch Lane redevlopment behind the Rainbow was completed before anyone noticed it didn't have Listed Building consent.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 6:45pm Geoff wrote:
As I have explained below, it is the Council's responsibility to ensure that conditions are met, and it is also the Councils responsibility to ensure that the building regs and planning officers work together. It is one Department, managed by Lindsey Frost, with a senior Officer assigned to each of the two divisions.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 7:02pm Ben wrote:
Geoff, I don't know any of the details of this particular case, but I have to take issue with your first statement. It is the Council's responsibility to review the submitted information, and approve or refuse it. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure the conditions themselves are met. What is the planning office supposed to do - install CCTV to monitor every building site to ensure conditions are being met?
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 8:00pm Geoff wrote:
Hi Ben,
You are right to say the Council can't be expected to be aware of everything that goes on. We need to let them know. However, these buildings are almost complete and are clearly visible to anyone from the High St. Someone did let Planning know, and apparently the horror on their faces was something to behold.
the planning department has a very poor record on ensuring buildings are built according to plans, or enforcing the failures when identified by the public. Two houses in East St were apparently built in the wrong place, and were later subject to enforcement action, (despite having been inspected and approved by Conservation, and Building Control Officers)
As I think I said, the Council is notified when building commences, as a requirement of the Building Control process.

 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 8:32pm Ben wrote:
Geoff, I might be wrong but I don't believe that a Local Authority has any statutory responsibility to ensure buildings are built according to plans, whilst they are being built. Except in cases of Listed buildings, planners have no supervisory or checking remit. As I keep saying, the responsibility lies with the applicant.
As an aside, I would point out that it is quite difficult to check the size or appearance of a building while it is shrouded in scaffolding.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 8:36pm Ben wrote:
I find it bizarre that the blame is being laid solely at the door of the Planning Department here. Why is no-one criticising the people who have damaged the walls and built the building incorrectly?
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 9:08pm Geoff wrote:
Hi Ben,
I agree it is important to look at all the facts. Nothing is black and white.
Planning department are responsible for ensuring that buildings are built according to the permission granted. They have an enforcement team, and should have a system that ensures that conditions have been satisfied when they are given statutory notice that building work has commenced.
Scaffolding was not the issue here, the problem relates to details of the rear garden provision, retaining walls, and foundation basics.
Perhaps the applicant has built the entire project without required Building Control checks on drains, foundations and construction, but this would make them a little tricky to sell.
The underlying problem is that I am afraid Lewes has a reputation for being a soft touch.
Baxters for example was built without the planners realising that they needed to consider fire access. They ignored a letter residents found explaining that a fire engine couldn't enter St Nicholas lane, and then approved a fire safety assessment provided by the developers that failed to take into account a number of issues affecting road width.


 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 9:22pm Ben wrote:
That most planning departments are riddled with institutional bureaucratic incompetence is something I definitely won't dispute.
 
 
On 20 Aug 2008 at 11:31pm Bored person wrote:
Sashka, talk about something else, please!
 
 
On 21 Aug 2008 at 8:51am sashimi wrote:
Bored person, as I understand it the rules of this forum are that if you aren't interested in a thread, you can choose not to read it. Otherwise, so long as it's not illegal, defamatory or abusive, you can write about anything to do with Lewes - and if no one responds you pretty soon get the message and find another way of passing the time.
 
 
On 21 Aug 2008 at 9:49am terry lesser wrote:
Correct me if I am wrong Ben but I think the majority of the contributors to this discussion blame the Planning Department because they like me were under the impression that we pay the District Council, via our rates, to perform certain functions on our behalf; one of these being to monitor and enforce planning consents. I am also dismayed to discover that Planning and building control do not communicate. Is this the general rule or a particular foible of the LDC? I am aware that Building Control now sub-contract out inspections under the erronous impression that by delegating the actual inspection releases them from the overall responsibility for the practice and outcome. The Music Academy conversion is a good example of this practice. A distaster that building control are presently washing their hand of.
Whatever the detail one thing is clear. If Ben is right and there is no incompetence or malpractice on the part of Planing or Building Control then we must agree that the system itself is seriously flawed. That means that presently there is no real control of any development in Lewes present or future. I find this extremely alarming.
 
 
On 21 Aug 2008 at 10:23am Ben wrote:
The planning system as it exists in this country is certainly deeply flawed, but that is a different discussion. However the current system is very simple in principle: an applicant submits drawings, reports and other information such as visuals to the planning department. The planning department ensures that the proposals comply with national and local policies. The proposals are then approved or refused. At that point it is the responsibility of the applicant to build those proposals in accordance with the consent. If they do not, the planners can action against the applicant. Short of installing CCTV on every building site, I don't see how the planners could monitor every development, even if they had that remit.
As an analogy, we all pay tax which contributes to a police force. However we don't expect the police to prevent every crime. We expect people to behave responsibly but those who do not to be caught and punished.
 
 
On 21 Aug 2008 at 11:10am Taff wrote:
If the current system is so simple Ben how come LDC keep getting it wrong?
Do the planning office scrutinise applications to ensure that there are no problems to listed buildings, walls or any other important feature before the application is given or refused consent? if the answer to that is no then there is no real reason to have listed features is there? Or is it just LDCs way of looking important whilst actually being impotent.
 
 
On 21 Aug 2008 at 11:25am Town Centre resident. wrote:
As someone responsible for letting the Planning department know about a building being constructed incorrectly I will add this.
I noticed two houses being built with the foundations too shallow, and in the wrong place on a tiny plot in East St.
I told the planning department, and was ignored. It took so long to get anyone to take it seriously, that by the time it was acknowledged there were serious problems the buildings had been virtually completed.
The Council should have inspected the foundations, but could provide no evidence that they had. Additional issues about the poor construiction resulted in a suggestion by a Councillors that the houses should be demolished. Eventually enforcement action was taken to have parts rebuilt.
I obtained a copy of a private letter written by a member of the PAC saying that a senior planning officer 'had let everyone down'
Ben, the first part of what you say is correct, but the Planning Department do not respond properly to complaints, that is the point. In fact they prefer to waste their time harassing people like Jenny Mumford and others.
Our Planners are either unwilling, or do not have an effective system for monitoring construction projects they have approved. It is not a case of just approving taking the planning fee, and running.
Viable enforcement is also reliant on the quality of planning reports and approvals. If you have read the planning reports you will know that key documents are often missing, conservation details have been as good as absent(until our new much welcomed officer turned up and there were factual errors and biased comments that supported applicants.
For example the planning report regarding the site you are discussing said this about a complaint from the nursery next door that their childrens play area would lose privacy/security from overlooking.
There will be no loss of amenity as it is unlikely that future occupants of the proposed houses will be in during the daytime, when the children are outside.
A comment that is as speculative as it is biased and improper.
 
 
On 21 Aug 2008 at 11:27am town centre resident wrote:

As someone responsible for letting the Planning department know about a building being constructed incorrectly I will add this.
I noticed two houses being built with the foundations too shallow, and in the wrong place on a tiny plot in East St.
I told the planning department, and was ignored. It took so long to get anyone to take it seriously, that by the time it was acknowledged there were serious problems the buildings had been virtually completed.
The Council should have inspected the foundations, but could provide no evidence that they had. Additional issues about the poor construiction resulted in a suggestion by a Councillors that the houses should be demolished. Eventually enforcement action was taken to have parts rebuilt.
I obtained a copy of a private letter written by a member of the PAC saying that a senior planning officer 'had let everyone down'
Ben, the first part of what you say is correct, but the Planning Department do not respond properly to complaints, that is the point. In fact they prefer to waste their time harassing people like Jenny Mumford and others.
Our Planners are either unwilling, or do not have an effective system for monitoring construction projects they have approved. It is not a case of just approving taking the planning fee, and running.
Viable enforcement is also reliant on the quality of planning reports and approvals. If you have read the planning reports you will know that key documents are often missing, conservation details have been as good as absent(until our new much welcomed officer turned up and there were factual errors and biased comments that supported applicants.
For example the planning report regarding the site you are discussing said this about a complaint from the nursery next door that their childrens play area would lose privacy/security from overlooking.
There will be no loss of amenity as it is unlikely that future occupants of the proposed houses will be in during the daytime, when the children are outside.
A comment that is as speculative as it is biased and improper.
 
 
On 21 Aug 2008 at 11:28am Ben wrote:
As I've said elsewhere on this thread, I don't dispute that LDC planners, as with almost every planning department up and down the country, may fail to handle even simple bureaucratic matters competently and expeditiously. This, however, is no reason to apportion blame to them when the fault may lie with others.
If an application is handled correctly, any impact on Listed structures should be an important issue and applicants should have to negotiate an acceptable solution. If Listed structures on a site are not picked up, or if LDC fail to insist on a solution, then the fault lies with LDC. If a solution IS negotiated and then not implemented properly, the fault lies with the applicant.
 
 
On 21 Aug 2008 at 11:51am Taff wrote:
Ben, your comments are always about after the event. Reactive. The emphasis surely must be before the event to ensure protection of important features. Proactive.
Once a wall or tree or whatever has gone it has gone. End of bloody story mate! Most contractors would probably go bankrupt than pay for expensive renovation and replacement of important features that they 'inadvertantly' removed.
The driving must always be from the front.
 
 
On 21 Aug 2008 at 6:39pm Annette Curtin-Twitcher wrote:
I'm afraid, Taff, that the problem is down to the low level of competence among the planners, and a lack of will when it comes to beign proactive.
I once reported what I believed to be an unauthorised errection on the side od a listed building in a conservation area. To start with, the planning officer couldn't be arsed to tell me if it had approval or if consent had been applied for. It hadn't, he knew full well, it hadn't and told me that he was familiar with the offending structure as he walked past it every day on his way to work and had noticed it!
Then he refused to take any steps to remedy the matter until I wrote in, telling him what he already knew. Mad or what?
 
 
On 22 Aug 2008 at 8:33am Taff wrote:
It would certainly seem so Annette, based on what has been seen around and heard about the building projects in Lewes.
Forget the protocol and the regulations. If none are being practised then the responsibility goes back to the planners offices.
Always best to complain in writing, deliver it by hand too as it may easily be claimed to have been lost in the post.
 
 
On 22 Aug 2008 at 8:58am terry lesser wrote:
This is not the first thread on this forum which has revealed a deep distrust of the Lewes District Councils elected members and their officers. Quite frankly until this situation is resolved there is little point in concerning ourselves with many of the pressing issues which are excersising us all. We have to grasp the nettle. What is to be done about the LDC? Does constitutional apparatus exist whereby an electorate can lodge a vote of no confidence in a municiple authority forcing a review of its ability to manage its statutory functions? I would welcome some feedback from any experts who might know. Furthermore I think it is time the 'stick was put about a bit' and the LDC were given a bit of a shake up. Surely Lewes is capable enough to organise a campaign which would do this. Anyone believe there is the will to take on the LDC/
 
 
On 22 Aug 2008 at 9:18am Taff wrote:
There seems to be growing concern in the Sussex Express letter pages every week. Perhaps mention of a petition in there would spark some response and take it from there.
 
 
On 22 Aug 2008 at 10:39am Geoff wrote:
Perhaps someone would like to start by asking for some explainations from Councillors for their decisions after they have been made. It is very difficult to know at planning meetings as they rush decisions through with little or no debate about planning issues.
For example. an application this week to squeeze in a futuristic eco-home behind East st car park that was recommended for refusal, was supported by Jim Daly (Lib Dem, Lewes)
He proposed 'approval' despite the application breaching policies. To vote for approval you are legally obliged to provide reasons for approval so we can only wonder what he thought they were. An unelected planning officer had to suggest some for him. A similar application on this site had previously been refused, and an appeal had also been refused by an inspector becuase of policy breaches.
Luckily the new application was refused, but I am sure we would all like to know what Cllr Daly thought he was doing.
 
 
On 22 Aug 2008 at 10:42am Elvis the Gunslinger wrote:
This is will interest some of you.
vivalewes.com/image/v3/ads/Battle_of_Lewes.pdf
stick the usual www at the front.
Coudln't post the link normally for some reason.
 
 
On 22 Aug 2008 at 10:56am Taff wrote:
Mention of this, without names, is the sort of thing that if it got in the public domain(Sussex express!) I would expect reaction to. Lewes News even.
 
 
On 22 Aug 2008 at 11:16am geoff wrote:
Hi Taff.
As Planning decisions are in the public domain, and the vote was made at a publkic meeting, there is no need to worry about names. We should also remember that Councillors are elected by us, to act for us. they are responsible to us, not the council, and there is a Code of conduct that they should adhere to. This includes being accountable to the electorate.
This is why it is so peculiar that our Councillors will not engage in public debate. In fact it is undemocratic, whatever your political persuasion is.
 
 
On 22 Aug 2008 at 11:41am Lewes Laugher wrote:
There are a few questions people have wanted to ask about Cllr D over the years. Meanwhile, have no doubt that Angel Property didn't come to Lewes because they like the weather. They knew the pathetically inadequate planning dept and councillors they'd be dealing with.
 
 
On 22 Aug 2008 at 1:55pm Taff wrote:
What about a letter to Norman stating just that. Or the sussex Express and possibly the Argus. No one particularly likes uncomfortable publicity do they.
 
 
On 22 Aug 2008 at 4:09pm Nosey Parker wrote:
Letters to MP, Ombudsman involvement and challenge by private solicitors has been tried in Lewes during the last few years.
 
 
On 23 Aug 2008 at 2:10pm terry lesser wrote:
I would of thought that as Cllr Daly is an elected member we have the right to write and question him on his proposal for approval and receive an explanation. His response I am sure will be very illuminating. Let's fill his postbox next week shall we? Post reponses on the forum.
Cllr Jim Daly
31 Lancaster Street
Lewes
BN7 2PX
james.daly@lewes.gov.uk
I note that his declaration in the Registration of Interests he names Friends of Lewes!
 
 
On 24 Aug 2008 at 1:35pm not from around here wrote:
Isn't dis-satisfaction and frustration with the planning procedure common right across the country? I think if you look around Brighton for example you will see many, many buildings that are incredibly unsuitable being approved over the last few decades. Could it be that the planning situation is no worse in Lewes than anywhere else and it's just that Lewes (or at least a section of it) is more sensitive and more vocal than many other towns?
 
 
On 24 Aug 2008 at 2:51pm Local wrote:
not from round here may very well be right. But that doesn't mean we should accept rubbish being built in Lewes.
 
 
On 24 Aug 2008 at 7:54pm Tree less wrote:
Perhaps you should ask our Mr Rees-Elliot about trashing trees and flint walls. And come to that fencing off the land around them (land snatch?!?) This development is completely inappropriate considering the size of the plot available. Greed, sheer greed.
 
 
On 25 Aug 2008 at 11:55am not from around here wrote:
Hi Local,
no I'm not saying you should accept unsuitable developments - it's just that so many posters seem to believe that Lewes is worse than other places and is a soft-touch as far as planning is concerned. I would suggest that the opposite is true.
 
 
On 25 Aug 2008 at 1:25pm Local wrote:
Not from around here - so, first you say the LDC planners are no worse than others in the country, then you say they are harder on developers than others. You seem a bit confused - you're not Mr Style by any chance are you?
 
 
On 25 Aug 2008 at 8:54pm not from around here wrote:
I was suggesting that Lewes planners are probably no worse than anywhere else in response to many posters of this forum who think that Lewes is unique in this regard.
Also in response to others who have suggested that Lewes is a soft touch for developers I would say that is not the case as a developer only has to breathe in (or consider breathing in) before all the usual suspects in the town object. So I would say that does not make Lewes a soft touch for developers.
Some Lewes residents THINK that their town is under siege by developers when in fact it happens everywhere - it's just that some of the residents are more sensitive than in other towns. What's confusing about that?
 
 
On 25 Aug 2008 at 9:09pm Local wrote:
not from round here - read your original post again. There's no point moving the goalposts when everyone can see what you said. I assume there's a reason.
 
 
On 25 Aug 2008 at 9:25pm not from around here wrote:
Okay, you've completely lost me. Please explain exactly what you are on about or what it was that I said that confused you.
 
 
On 26 Aug 2008 at 9:04am Local wrote:
Not from - I think it might be best if we just agreed to disagree.
 
 
On 26 Aug 2008 at 11:53am geoff wrote:
'Not from around here'
You are correct to say that there are bad development problems all over the country, and that Lewes may be no worse than some. But that is a little like saying that we should not be concerned about street safety in Lewes because it is worse elsewhere.
If you were 'from around here' you would know that there have been some very funny goings on, some of which are referred to on this forum, and some of which aren't.
What is so shocking is that the issues that are arising are not only adversly affecting residents, but are also permenantly damaging one of the most important historic towns in the country, and that is something we don't share with anywhere else.
 
 
On 27 Aug 2008 at 9:43am Local wrote:
Geoff - Thanks for making the point far better than I could have.


This thread has reached its limit now
Why not start another one


 

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