21 March 2011

Permitted developments

Nothing gets the members of the Kingston upon Thames Society going more than a development they do not like so a speaker from the local planning office was bound to attract their attention and interest.

Except it is not called Planning any more, because nobody does any planning. Now It's Development Control and even that veneer of control is pretty thin.

What we were there to hear about was permitted development, that is official acknowledgement that a development does not require planning permission because it fits objectively within the development guidelines.

This could be seen as "planning lite" allowing developers to skip around the regulations but our speaker, Nicola Smith, was quite clear and firm that the rules on permitted development are tight and unambiguous.

These rules date all the way back to 1948 and have been frequently updated since then to meet changing requirements and fashions.

The talk and subsequent discussion exposed some of the problems with the planning system. It relies heavily on people knowing that they need to apply for permission and for others to notice when applications are submitted or when developments are made without them.

One of the big problems is that councils (and RBK is no worse here than others in this respect) make so little effort to inform residents of applications in their area. This information is held in IT systems and could be made readily available but they don't do it. There used to be a useful independent service called PlanningAlerts.com but this has ceased.

Technology can help in some areas and aerial photos are now widely used to help enforcement errors to spot developments that have been made without permission.

As expected, the meeting rather degenerated in to a winge about specific developments that the people there did not like but that did not eclipse the important fact that this was an interesting and informative talk given by somebody who knows her subject well.

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