What Happened Next? – Follow up to the Refusal of a Planning Application on 9th January 2018

The aim of this short report is to state what happened when Mr Martins engaged in the Planning Process with Canterbury City Council.

Background
According to the planning portal Armando could decide whether his antenna designs were to follow the recommended pathway for the type of development category they belonged in.  They could either be de-minimis, permitted or planned.  The portal recommends consultation for the first two types but didn’t mandate it.  He noted some difficulty engaging the planning department about these and decided he could go ahead with confidence after our consultation with the RSGB.  The antenna he previously used without planning permission, now needed planning permission.  Technically to get what he had asked for from the property,  He would require planning permission was developing an antenna requiring planning permission but also had designs for permitted developments which would allow him to make use of his radio’s.  He accepted he would need to go through due process and expected due process back from the council.

During the year housing staff attempted to “enforce” a ban on his wire antenna, he constructed a wire antenna using his right to choose a permitted development.

During these meetings we took an educational approach and realised the council housing staff, issuing “enforcement action” weren’t authorised or qualified to, nor had they offered any measurements or paperwork etc. A theme running throughout Armando’s experience and causing him stress.  Having now queried this with RSGB we learnt we took the correct action by engaging the council and not accepting the “enforcement” and documenting the conversation.  Subsequently RSGB informed us via an article titled An Unexpected Visitor in the the March 2018 issue of RADCOM that this was the correct form of action.

From moving to Thanington in March, up until June 2017, Armando was quite happy with his situation and was preparing a planning application. He was expecting housing to support him by checking ahead that the property he moved into was somewhere he could get planning permission for. Before he moved.

Pre-planning Phase

Armando was advised by the RSGB Planning Team to take advantage of pre-planning and obtain a certificate of lawful development, when attempting to put this into practice it was contradicted by the architect as being a waste of time and money.  From this point it became important to monitor the process.

Planning Process
There were discrepancies between the process actual and the process expected according to both the RSGB and the Kent Design Guide.  An aide to planning applications in Kent.

All went well until the planning officers decision. Following a verbal report of a conversation with the planning officer from the architect, it appeared that the decision would be for his proposal as there were no objections by the closing date.

There then came another message: “A councillor has asked for your application to go before the planning committee. There was going to be a refusal, and it was a committee decision, because of its impact on visual amenity”.

By coincidence we had interviewed the councillor for Thanington who said he was going to intercept the proposal and make sure it would go before the planning committee. He was generally disparaging of amateur radio and made inappropriate remarks, some of which we heard influencing the planning committee outcome when considering his failed application at Thornhurst.

Going by prior experience, Armando was understandably upset and wanted to know more. He had assumed the cooperative process described in the Kent Design Guide, and also as described by RSGB Planning would be available to him, and was proceeding in that direction. As far as he knew he would be able to ask questions and could modify the plan if there were issues, to make a more acceptable proposal.

He asked for more information – a questionnaire was produced. This included how and by who had the application been diverted to a committee decision. Also about visual amenity.

The response was that “The Canterbury City Council Planning department cannot answer questions during the process, due to its high case load.”

Armando had identified two possible candidates for the interception.

He became concerned about; visual impact, the assurances made by East Kent Housing, the lack of a meeting on site with the planning officer and the lack of a response to his questions. This led us to create a separate overview of his locality.

He could not reconcile the phrase “visual amenity”, when related to the area, in context. In the area there are several objects in the street scene that take the eye and it is litter strewn, several refrigerators have been seen since the time he moved in. A number of vertical objects are present. Objects that the proposal would be wholly congruent with, such as an electricity substation on his doorstep fenced with grey iron railings (the same colour scheme as the mast). Also nearby residents are used to seeing Multidirectional Telephone junctions mounted on Telegraph poles. Presenting a tee shape, similar to the proposal. Also the refusal seemed to suggest the application could be controlled by one neighbour next door, based on the “fact” she “might” see the antenna and make an objection, but who didn’t when asked and whose view across the property was very well screened by foliage (at the time). We think this could well result in Armando being held to ransom or promote bribery. De ja Vu.

As the report had little to say in favour of the proposal, we think the detail needed to balance the report in favour of the proposal was omitted. We asked if the planning officers report could be combined with our information, ahead of the planning committee meeting. Following the late publication of the report on 21st December, we found out this had been ignored. We took the issue up with head of planning who said he would ask the planning officer to review it. He didn’t.

From 29th December there was a game of cat and mouse. We thought it fair not to appear at the planning committee meeting until the issues raised had been reconciled.

Only the day before the planning committee meeting and on the day, was Armando to hear that there was no chance of his information being incorporated in the planning officers report or altering the decision before going before the committee. Postponements refused.

It then became a foregone conclusion and we think it was tactical that Armando was railroaded into a decision. After attempting to back out, he felt coerced into attending.

At the meeting, we weren’t allowed to speak, before or after I had spoken on his behalf. Despite asking for three slots. We had to listen to his application being assassinated by the PO and two councillors, one of whom had a grudge and the other with inappropriate fixed views.

Armando deeply believes that this is a poor example of public service standards and has quoted the Nolan Report. He has asked his MP to intervene with EKH.  Here he was directed to complain to the LG&SCO – the local government and social care ombudsman.

From the campaign POV he is unable to identify anyone in Canterbury City Council who can take responsibility and make things happen. His rights to enjoy his property are at risk.

Also because there are more than one amateur, in more than one council area affected by malicious complaints which triggered this saga, he is offering the chance for RSGB to help by calling in his application.

became clear that the process he was a participant in, fell short of guidelines.  Essentially his needs, which the secretary of state for community and local government says must be met by the planning process, were discarded on the strength of a single report biased towards denying him those needs.

At each stage of the process he raised a number of issues and objections first with the planning officer in charge and then with the head of planning.  These requests were systematically ignored.  Attempts to stop the process to allow for the issues to be rectified were also ignored, railroading him towards a decision made solely on the recommendation of the planning officer.  Evidence Mr Martins supplied to refute that decision was not disclosed.  The planning officers recommendation contained a clause giving the power to refuse or take the antenna down was given to his neighbour.

There were no objections, and on this basis it was expected the planning officer would make the decision to allow the mast.  Instead the decision was sidetracked into a committee decision and the truth about how that was carried out was obfuscated.  Mr Martins was denied the support of his local councillor, and the Radio Society of Great Britain.  But has support from his MP.

If your wondering why at 77 Years of age there is no support for this then join the club.

Naturally disappointed, Mr Martins refuses to give up.  The local press has had a bit of a field day.  Our response was to contact the reporter immediately regarding the councillors inside knowledge of our petition and the lack of data or the willpower to verify it in order to support his own planning decision, in respect of the numbers of amateur radio operators in the Canterbury area.  Invalidating our argument is a technique well covered by literature.  We summed up the planning committee meeting as deeply ingrained cultural bullying.  Firstly his access to the process was interfered with by not allowing him time to speak.

We think the process was used to relentlessly drive the application towards a final decision whilst not disclosing the full facts associated with the site or the application.

It became clear that there is no place for amateur radio enthusiasts in the 460 +/- pages of local plans, supposedly prepared with the consultation of all people in local communities.

Our response the the press did raise the eyebrows of the RSGB.

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