Transparent planning laws will help objection to new flats
We recently moved into a large Victorian semi on a quiet tree lined cul-de-sac. Most of the other houses are similar in scale and design. Last year, a local developer applied for planning permission to demolish a house and replace it with a block of 12 apartments, all of which were to have two bedrooms. Luckily it was refused. We have now received a letter from the council informing us that he has submitted a new application and we have 28 days to object. Although the houses are quite large it seems outrageous to us that 12 families could end up living on a site where there was once just a single detached house. The last thing we want are yuppie types tearing up the road at high speed. It certainly seems to have mobilised our neighbours and there is a real sense of the old “Dunkirk spirit”. Can you provide any advice as to how we can make the most out of our objections and stop this development?
Having not seen the design proposals, I am unable to comment on whether they are appropriate for the location. However, we are extremely lucky in this country to have a transparent planning system. Every local planning office allows free access for anyone to look at current planning applications. These files include the proposed design drawings and comments made by the various consultees such as Highways and Environmental Health, together with local objections. Increasingly they are becoming available over the internet.
Initially, I suggest you have a look at this file and compare it with the previous design proposals. In particular focus on the reasons for the original refusal and see how the new designs address these. There is usually a duty planning officer so it would be worthwhile asking them to comment on whether they feel the applicant has made sufficient changes to overcome the original reasons for refusal. However, be prepared for a “without prejudice” response.
Local authorities also have a Planning Policy setting the parameters for new development. It would be worthwhile reading the relevant sections to ensure this application is not in contravention. This is possibly one of the most effective ways of gaining support. Look also into local housing demand. Is there an oversupply of apartments? However, be prepared for this to work against your argument. If the area is dominated by large family houses then apartments could be in demand, particularly from older people wishing to downsize.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when objecting to planning applications is to become over-emotional. Only soundly-based planning reasons should be used, such as the lack of amenity space, close proximity to adjacent habitable rooms or inadequate car parking etc. The more people who object using a non-standard letter then the more likely the application will be to go before a planning committee. This then affords the objectors the opportunity to address the committee and voice their concerns. Although generally this is restricted to just one person and there is a time limit it can still be very effective.
Finally don’t underestimate the power of lobbying local members, particularly those on the planning committee. Applications can only be refused on legitimate grounds but strong opposition and political support often encourage development control officers to look harder for reasons to make a refusal.
If it appears likely that permission will be granted you have a narrow window of opportunity to influence the design. Developers are often keen to be seen to be listening to local residents. I must also say that after the initial and relatively short lived disruption during construction, buildings such of these quickly become part of the neighbourhood and are readily accepted.