Over the last two weeks two planning applications I have been dealing with have been determined. Both gave rise to some interesting (and frustrating) points which I will elaborate on below.
The first application was a for a mobile home for a temporary period of 4 years. This would allow time for some farm buildings which adjoin the application site to be converted for residential use, subject to securing planning permission. Two primary issues arose with the proposal being "Nutrient Neutrality" and "Essential Worker".
I have to admit I didn't realise how extensive the Nutrient Netrality problem is, particulary in southern England. I have discovered that there are something like 120,000 residential consents being held up because of this. With this particular application we were proposing to discharge the foul/grey waste into a separate and sealed tank and to have it taken away and disposed of at a licencsed facility. This wasn't acceptable as we could have still taken the waste to a site which fed into the relevant catchment area. Natural England have a holding objection over all residential applications and there appears to be little urgency to resolve it. It does seem peverse that water companies in certain conditions can discharge raw sewage into water courses/the sea and yet and yet the construction of vital new dwellings is being held up. Will some one in Government grasp the issue and resolve it?
The second issue was the "essential worker". The applicant doesn't have livestock but is aiming to provide accomodation for all staff on the estate. This is of particular relenace as (1) there are few properties to let in the locality (2) rents are high and only offered on a short term basis (3) house values are high. It is clear that rural workers salaries come no where near enough to pay the rents demanded and this has become a significant problem is recruiting new employees. This was all highlighted in the Essential Workers Assessment but we were still unable to meet the criteria. We continue to work with the planners to try and find a solution.
The second application was for PV panels for a residential property. From the initial pre application submission to the grant of planning permission this has taken 8 months. All sorts of delays for multiple reasons but at least we got there. The scheme provides for PV panels to be erected in a field opposite the dwelling/farmyard which lies the other side of a minor road. As explained during the application process the whole system will be erected in about 4 days. All of the panels, mounting system and everything else required would be delivered on two HGV's and unloaded by the farm buildings. An agricultural telehandler would be used to take the panels etc from the farmyard directly over the road to the field. Despite this explanation the Highways Department have insisted that we provide a full and detailed "Construction Environment Management Plan" which has to be submitted and approved prior to the development commencing. It also requires that new gates are installed set back 5m from the highway and the entrance paved. Ironically in the Landscape Assessment we emphasised that we were endeavouring to maintain the rural setting. I was advised that all of this was "non negotiable". Planning conditions such as this are not relevant to this type of development and it is a shame that there is no latitude or discretion allowed. With high workloads in LPA and Highway Authorities why create work when it isn't necessary? Applications such as this should take 2 to 3 months, not eight.