Whitewash

I do not the number of developments  Shepway District Council Planners are currently looking at all I do know is that it will be of no use for local people to object.

In every country in the EU local people who disagree with a council’s decision to approve a development can use the planning system to object to it. In Britain by contrast, only developers can appeal against a council’s decision. This imbalance which is never more evident than in cases where council’s ignores its own local plan, approved after months of Public Consultations and grants planning permission for a development which no one had envisaged. All local people are entitled to do, short of taking drastic and often ruinous legal action, is to ask the Secretary of State [SoS] for the Environment to override the local authority and “call in” the decision. Unfortunately most SoS will do anything for an quiet life. Aware that every case they handle carries and enormous amount of paperwork , so they tend to call in as few applications as possible.

While local people are forbidden by law to appeal against a council’s decision, property developers make full use of the special privilege they enjoy. When they launch an appeal, large development corporations purchase the best QC’s and Barristers and planning consultants money can buy. Local people, by contrast, have to fight their Judicial Review and possible appeal with their own resources. Their in financial support for objectors, and there are no official sources of free advice. I have witnessed cases in which ordinary men and women with no legal qualifications have been reduced to tears on the stand. And the sole positive outcome of all this expense, time and stress, as far as the objectors are concerned, is to keep things as they are.

The local authority will usually be among those who argue against the development , and it can be expected to hire a barrister to make its case. In today’s cash strapped councils this is not happening as much for financial reasons. Fighting an inquiry is inordinately expensive, especially as the entire costs of the exercise, including the developer’s fees can be awarded against the council if it loses. Councilors have been warned that they could be held personally liable for costs if they reject a development. So Councils avoid confrontations. Developers find that the threat of going to appeal is often enough to persuade a local council to cave in and grant planning permission.

If they development company loses the appeal, it need only wait two years before submitting an identical application. Developers have and continue to play the long game until all resistance of local people has been exhausted and the local council grant permission.

The only remaining means of challenging planning decisions are Judicial Review or an appeal to the Local Government Ombudsman. The ombudsman’s powers are limited. He can make decisions based on the narrowest technical criteria, and objectors have to demonstrate not only that the local authority is guilty of maladministration but also the development would have been rejected if the case had been handled properly. The Ombudsman has no powers to enforce his recommendations.

Companies including developers can, quite legitimately, give money or benefits in kind to a local authority as a condition of receiving planning permission.

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