How can we oppose plans to build council houses in our village?
Q. We live in what was once a lovely village but over the last 25 years it has effectively merged with the nearby town due to the amount of new development. We have now discovered that some council houses are going to be built on public open space opposite our house.
We, together with all our neighbours object to having so many council houses built close by and are concerned by who will move in and the fact that our houses will be devalued.
As the Local Authority is promoting the scheme there is clearly nothing we can do, as planning permission will no doubt be granted automatically.
We would like to object but are unsure how to go about this. Should we do it ourselves as local residents or employ a professional. Can you please advise?
AThere are two fundamental areas that are considered on any planning application. The first is based on common sense and can be argued by anyone. For example, will the proposed development generate noise or pollution in what is a quiet residential area? The second concerns planning law and development policies. These can vary depending on authority and area but typically include the designation of land for specific uses, scale of new buildings and levels of affordable housing that are required based on local demand, etc. In addition, to the local policies it is important to have a good understanding of government Planning Policy Guidance notes as well as the planning act itself.
For a non-specialist this can be daunting therefore you may want to consider employing a planning consultant.
Planning consultants are basically a “hired gun” and most should give an initial consultation free of charge. This will establish whether there are strong planning-based arguments for the proposed development to be refused permission. They can draft formal objections and speak on your behalf at the planning committee. They are skilled professionals and charge accordingly so it is worthwhile combining forces with other like-minded neighbours.
However, be prepared for them to be totally honest and I would urge you to heed their advice.
Any self-respecting professional will refuse the commission if the grounds for objection are based on emotion.
The concerns mentioned in your letter have no basis in planning terms.
I also suspect that the proposed site has actually been designated in the local plan as a housing site and is not a formal public open space, although this is easy for you to check out with the Local Authority.
While I note your comment that because the council supports this application, the planning permission will be a mere formality, it has been my experience that exactly the opposite is the case.
If you attend the committee meeting, it is likely that this application will receive significantly more scrutiny and generate more debate than any scheme submitted by a private developer.
Furthermore, you may be pleasantly surprised by the appearance of the new houses, as the current trend is to make socially rented properties indistinguishable from the private sector.
Jonathon Wingfield is a partner at WSM Acanthus Architects, Leeds.