After a brief telephone conversation with planning, Armando became aware that his application was in the process of being refused and that a councillor had asked the planning officer to include it in the planning committee decision in December. The matter cited was visual amenity. Essentially it is an eyesore, or is too high etc.
Bearing in mind:
- The personal assurance of the CEO that East Kent Housing would check that planning permission would be available in his new accommodation, before he moved, and
- Knowing such a decision was what prevented him from gaining planning permission in his last place,
Armando has been keen not to engage in the process if it wasn’t going to be allowed this time. His only wish is to use the antenna he has, or one of the councils choosing.
This new “decision” has made Armando anxious and we began to take steps to prevent what he now viewed alarmingly as a failing application with a view to rectifying any problems before it came before the committee. We produced a number of questions that would have helped us to understand – based on his concerns. See below.
A response to this was not forthcoming by the date it was asked for (21/23rd November) . The meeting was already scheduled for 9th Dec. (Now postponed). What did come back was a leaflet about planning services and how it operates, together with several emails, one stating that because the planning department has a high workload it cannot answer questions. With alarm bells ringing, we objected by seeking to step back into a part of the process known as pre-planning where such questions could be answered before the application. This argument forced Armando into accepting the forthcoming planning committee meeting, albeit in January. There was no going back, instead we were going forward into more unnecessary and inappropriate process, should the councillors cement their decision to refuse. This will certainly result in more stress as Armando contemplates more potential years of fighting, ending in an appeal with the planning directorate, whose decision would be final.
Whats more Armando’s opportunity to take measures to prevent this decision had been brushed aside. What became clear was the information driving the refusal and what we asked for, wasn’t available to us but should have been available at the time of the announcement and a part of the original report by the planning officer involved. This suggests an arbitrary decision has been made by someone who doesn’t have the time to gather and present the right information.
Questions about Openness
De ja Vu
The lack of response to our questions reinforced Armando’s view that the planning officers decision had been hijacked by a Councillor. More than one councillor on the planning committee had been involved in the refusal of his previous application in Herne Bay. (Which led to ending his hobby and forcing him to move.) During that planning committee meeting Armando was abused by a councillor, (who took a year to apologise). Another has strong views that dominated the decision. There are further discrepancies in the conduct of this meeting we have previously documented and the fear is there will be more of the same in the next one.
An arbitrary decision, might be all what decides Armando’s life.
To prevent this we provided our own report into visual amenity and precedents in the local area. This is available here:
On 29th November we were asked to verify part of the data provided and during our response our friend Mr MacDonald pointed out, our report on its own would be enough to allow planning permission as the visual amenity of the whole area is poor – not just the proposed antenna. We therefore asked the planning officer to review that. (No).
The document will be included with the submissions.
We have no confidence in this and we doubt the openness and transparency of the process because we have had no response to some highly relevant questions:
QUESTIONNAIRE – sent to the Planning Officer Responsible
Aim. Please help us to de-mystify our application and your recommendation to refuse, by answering the following questions and providing further information as requested.
Investigation Start Date:
Investigating Officers Name:
1. Which Councillor made the decision to put the application to the Planning Committee?
2. Which planning officers have decided to refuse? Please provide email addresses.
3. We understand the grounds being cited for the refusal are “visual amenity”. Are you proposing to object on any other grounds? If so state below.
a. Please explain visual amenity and provide links (URL) to any documentation or regulations covering it, and used in making your determination. (State para no etc).
b. List all factors considered when making this judgement?
c. Can you tell us if the application is in breach of regulations, specifically which regulation has been breached and by how much? For example if it was a measurement such as height, what do you expect to be the maximum height of any such structure in the proposed location compared to the mast itself.
Construction and Design:
4. Are you objecting because of the design? Y/N
a. If so, would changing the mast to a different type or style of street furniture be more acceptable? Y/N
b If Y which style would be more acceptable? (If no please state why.)
5. If the design specification included a more acceptable colour scheme or camouflage paint job – would that make the mast and antenna more amenable? If no please state why?
6. State how you visualised the antenna and mast in its proposed setting? What were the findings and how were they recorded? Please provide a copy of any documentation produced.
7. If the antenna (top load) was kept below the roofline for more than eighty percent of its working life would that make a difference to the amenity? If no state why.
Equality and Community, Empathy, Culture
8. Were any other council services involved or consulted during the investigation in respect of the applicants health, welfare, anti-social behaviour or housing issues?
9. Did you consider whether your decision would have a life affecting impact on the applicant when making your decision? If so provide a copy of the documentation showing who was consulted during the application.
- Did you consider the Gender, Race, age and disability of the applicant? Please provide documentation.
- Did you consider the applicant needs to keep in touch with his community when making this judgement?
13. Did you consider the expected life of the proposed antenna and mast?
14. Did you consider the status of the applicant in terms of his role i.e. home user, property developer or other?
15. Please provide a copy of any report made covering the application showing any measurements you took during the site visit and any subsequent visits.
Use of Precedents
16. Of 180 +/- Amateur Radio users in East Kent,which other applications did you consult in making your decision? (State by application Number and date).
17. Of 55000 Amateur Radio Users in UK did you consider any data about antenna masts outside of the county? In your opinion would it have helped in your decision, had you had access to such records?
18. Was any previous application by the applicant used in determining your outcome? If so state application number and first line of address.
19. Are local plans available for the area in question? If so please state which groups hav been consulted during the process, and the location (URL) of the local plan.
External and Internal Influences
20. To what extent were you influenced by those supporting the proposal? State in order, mark out of 10.
21. Have you seen Nightmare Neighbours Next Door Series 5 Episode 8 which features the applicant?