During the course of the past 12 months I submitted a number of planning appilcations, became invloved in a planning appeal and made submissions for a new "Local Plan". None of these were large applications but more the day to day grass routes applications. However the process remains the same.

A few things are of note and I am sure I am not alone. On more than one occassion I submitted an application and thereafter only had the minimal contact with the case officer. I made a point of contacting them asking if they needed any further information and provided them with my contact details. On rare occassions I was contacted and asked what I thought about a certain aspect of the application. However also exactly the opposite happended as well. In one notable case I was chasing for a decision (the application had been running for 16+ weeks) and out of the blue a decision notice arrived. Yes approved but with some bizarre conditions attached. In particular there was a landscaping scheme required to protect nearby cultural heritage. Yes there is cultural heritage nearby but the other side of a hill/wood. A phone call would have sorted this out.

Another interesting case was an application that landed up being consodered by committee. Nothing wrong with that but very frustrating when the local member talks at some length and introduces matters and arguements which were not part of or relevant to the application. Luckily there was a strong Chairman who brought the member to order. Still refused though against officers recommendation for approval!

Application verfication - application for some containers for storing equipment. A 44ft container is a simple structure, doors at one end and otherwise three "blank" elevations. I submitted a plan showing the end with the doors and one long side. The planning application was not verified as the plan did not show all four elevations. I sent in an additioanl scaled plan which showed two blank recatangles, the application was then verified. It wasn't necessary and held everything up for 3 weeks.

So from what I have experienced nothing has changed, the planning process remains bound up in overly complicated rules and regulations. Whatever the Government say they never actually reduce the regulatory burden.

Turning to the bigger picture not a week goes by without some reference to the need to build more houses and the barrage of reasons on why we can't, we need to protect the countryside, protect the "Green Belt" and of course the "Not in My Back Yard" arguement. All of this has been compounded recently by the flooding and the question of why we keep building in the floodplain. The problem isn't going away, people need housing. Yes we do have a large population but to my mind there is plenty of space to build 300,000 houses a year using a combination of brown field land, green field land and changing the use of existing buildings. An hour looking at Google Earth soon demonstrates there is room. 

The issue I have is the emphasis on urban extensions, large scale extensions and the quest for "sustainable locations". Dealing with the later first as I wrote in a blog 12 months ago I believe we need to re-considered the drive to get people out of their cars. It isn't going to happen and the nature of how we live, work and play means that for the vast majority of the population public and other means of transport are not a viable option. 

Returning to the emphasis on the larger urban extensions if you have visted one they are generally not the places which will be a lasting legacy. Most are quite soul less. I would much prefer to spread development around and allow all settlements to grow whatever their location or planning status. This (assuming also a much simplified planning process) would see much more interesting dwellings constructed, allow communities to grow and not overload the infrastructure. 

Sadly I predict nothing will change, the planning system in 12 months time will just as complex and those agin development will be saying of course I understand that we need more housing but not here thanks. There doesn't seem the political will or where-with-all to do anything. That is much the same with the HS2, new runway capacity for London or UK's energy supply to name a few.

I live in hope..........

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