Posts Tagged ‘Planning Enforcement’

6 December Planning Enforcement Agenda

November 29, 2012

In ten and half years of being a Councillor, I have never seen so many Feltham North properties on a single Planning Enforcement agenda.  I am aware of all the cases but this is an agenda worth sharing.

Planning Enforcement in Hounslow

May 12, 2012

I received the following comment in the ‘About’ page on my blog on Friday:

“I would be grateful if you could investigate and explain why the planning enforcement service seems to be completely ineffective at present. I believe that you should be putting pressure on to improve the service and regain the reputation it once had. I rarely see any press articles about planning enforcement and the work they are doing so much so that many of the clients I advise feel like they can built what they like without obtaining permission. I note that you don’t appear to have mentioned enforcement on this blog for a considerable period of time.

I hope it doesn’t get to the stage where hounslow is mentioned in the national media in a similar negative way to our neighbours Slough and Ealing regarding these beds in sheds.”

I responded as follows:

“Thank you for your comments. Whilst the problem of resources continues in this area, I think that this area is far less controversial than it was a number of years ago e.g. the enforcement committee that deals with these matters instead of the previous Area Planning Committees has approved all recommendations sent to them.

If you have any examples, I would recommend you send them to one of your ward Councillors or me.”

I then received the following:

“One could argue that the enforcement service is less controversial because officers are choosing to make it that way by putting the more difficult cases to one side and not making the public aware off there success stories. Which is a shame because there are seeming no penalities for not obtaining planning permission in Hounslow. The Council’s failure to get there message out is allowing the dreaded word of mouth advice people recieve from relatives and friends to take hold. Unfortunately the advise people are recieving from relatives is do what you want the Council wont take any action.

If the enforcement committee approves all recommendations is it not time to just give officers delegated powers to issue enforcement notices but retain a members right to call in an item to committee. This works sucessfully in other areas of London where officers have been given full delegated authority and takes out the political element.

Why is there a resource issue in this area when we are in a recession with plenty of planners struggling for work or career opportunities in and around London. Its either a wage issue or they dont like the product being offered to them. Perhaps you could clarify when this resource issue is going to be overcome.

I found your blog after searching planning enforcement in Hounslow and noted that most of the activity seems to be from years ago. It is a shame that this activity has not been continued. Especially when people who put in applications are asked to amend plans to shave 50cm of reasonably sized extensions when their neighbours a few doors done have just gone ahead and built a 10m extension without any seeming punishment.

What is the point in a planning service if it is not enforced effectively?”

I have made this posting for a number of reasons:

  1. The ‘About’ section is not the correct place;
  2. The subject matter is very important and I have always felt very strongly about Planning Enforcement;
  3. No specific examples have been given that make an enquiry or complaint worthwhile;
  4. I have been critical of the Labour Group many times when it comes to Planning Enforcement but as is typical for me, I will not be critical when I have nothing to back it up.  Since the Sustainable Development Enforcement Sub-Committee was created to deal with determining enforcement, I do not think it has rejected Officers advice on one occasion.  As history shows, this was always the case when the decisions were with Area Planning Committees;
  5. To plug this eForm;

This has prompted me to take a look into how many Enforcement Reports have gone to committee regarding properties in Feltham, Bedfont & Hanworth over the past 12 months.  There are none on the next agenda.

If anyone ever has any examples of work taking place without planning permission, I urge them to report it.  As always, my constituents are welcome to contact me for anything of the sort in Feltham North.

There are related concerns about planning where some Resident Groups have expressed concern.  This is worth a position in its own right.

Planning Enforcement in Heston & Cranford

November 9, 2010

On 24 July 2007, Borough Council decided to remove for one year the Planning Enforcement decisions from the Heston & Cranford Area Committee.  The background to this is here, here and here.

More recently, there was a decision taken by this Area Committee that has already caught the attention of Councillors, member of the public and the press.  See here and here.

This item regarding a property Victoria Gardens is up there with some of the other decisions made by this Area Committee that have caused concern in the past.  Amongst the correct decisions taken by the previous administration following the report from the Local Government Ombudsman was the introduction of recorded votes for all planning matters.  At least it is now possible for the likes of Councillors Vaught, Mann & Elizabeth Hughes to disassociate themselves from such odd decisions.

The bottom line issue here is whether this breach is immune from enforcement action (if a breach goes undetected for four years, it is then immune from enforcement action).

Section 4.2 of the report presented to the Area Committee on 23 September said:

“The aerial photographs taken in May 2007 show that the second rear extension had not been built at that time. It is not, therefore, immune from enforcement action.”

For Councillors to go against an aerial photograph is, as far as I am aware, unprecedented and deeply concerning.  On face value, it is possibily the most bizarre planning enforcement decision I have known since being elected in 2002.

My questions to Councillor Ruth Cadbury, who has Lead Member Responsibility for Planning amongst her portfolio, are the following:

  1. Do you share my concerns about this decision?
  2. Have you ever known an aerial photograph be disregarded this way?
  3. Do you intend to do anything about it or take the view that this is a matter for the Area Committee alone?
  4. What do you believe could/should be done to avoid such a decision from happening again?

My question to Councillors Bath, Rajawat, Gill, Gopal Dhillon & Kaur (who voted to overturn the officer recommendation to take enforcement action) aswell as Councillors John Chatt and Poonam Dhillon (who abstained) is simply why did any factor they considered override the comments in section 4.2 of the report?  Councillor Sohan Sangha also abstained but in fairness to him, he appears to abstain on everything in his capacity as Chair.

I very much hope that all of the Councillors I have mentioned face the music and provide very clear explanations to the Press and anyone else who may ask for their rationale on the night.

Another example of how we mean business

July 30, 2009

I love it when things are turned around.  Like it or not, the current administration has raised the profile of planning enforcement possibly more than any other Council in the country.  Here is the latest showing that we mean business.

These changes have been welcomed by the vast majority of people with whom I have spoken.

Bedfont decision from Planning Inspectorate

May 28, 2009

I am not certain if any decision from the planning inspectorate has surprised me as much as this one.  It relates to a property in New Road, Bedfont.

Councillor Jiwan Virk

May 13, 2009

Councillor Jiwan Virk, who has been mentioned on this blog previously, was in Brentford Magistrates Court this week.  The reason was for not complying with an enforcement notice (see item 29 for more info) against him.  Here is a link to the original report.

The outcome was that he was fined £1000 and ordered to pay costs of £2958 and a victim surcharge of £15.

He is a terrible example to others.  I think about the things that Labour Members have said about the Council’s tough stance on planning breaches over the past couple of years (again, posted about previously on the blog) and await their response to this with interest.  Suspending him previously for just 4 months was inadequate.  Far from me to interfere in the politics of the Labour Party but they need to decide (quickly) the extent to which they wish to disassociate themselves from such behaviour from someone who has the role of determining whether enforcement notices should be served against others.

How will Councillor Jagdish Sharma now respond?  Any of the following perhaps?

1. Jiwan Virk has brought shame on himself and the Labour Group.  We are going to expel him and call on him to resign as a Councillor.  In retrospect, we accept that the previous 4 month suspension was inadequate.

2. The Labour Group Officers will look into this.

3. Possibly he [Jiwan Virk] should have known better.

4. Mark Bowen and the Tories are responsible for interfering in this matter.

5. Jiwan is a good man and has already paid a high enough price.

Any other suggested responses from the Labour Group Leader?

Update:  The news has hit the papers.  It was tongue in cheek when I guessed number 4.  Councillor Virk has actually gone on record as stating that this is the case.

The latest on Planning Enforcement!

July 15, 2008

There was the latest Sustainable Development Committee meeting last night.  Take a look at agenda item 19 – 73 Basildene Road.

It is a Councillor who owns the property!  And, this is the type of breach that causes most residents the most concern.

Any guesses at what the explanation will be from the Councillor and that Councillor’s Leader?  Unaware of the rules perhaps?  Witch hunt from the Tories perhaps?

More on this later….

The minutes from the April Borough Council

June 17, 2008

The minutes from the above are well worth reading.

I am keen to emphasise items 8 & 9.  With regards to the first, the answer to the question from Cllr Barwood highlights a massive turnaround.  There are planning rules that need to be followed and enforcement notices complied with.  Taking the action referred to in the answer from Cllr Reid is a last resort.

As for the answer to the question from Cllr Harris, anyone who made the claims of a million pounds want to admit that they were mistaken?

Letter sent to Alan Keen MP

May 13, 2008

Dear Mr Keen

It will come as no surprise to you that I am writing to you about the remarks you made at the ‘Save Our Homes’ event last Saturday at Osterley Hotel.  My response to what you said at the time will have indicated just how horrified I was.

The comments you made (and which I wrote down at the time) that cause me the most concern were:

  • That the [planning] culture has changed at the Council in the past couple of years and that when you represented the Hounslow West ward on the Council, the Local Authority recognised a different culture and would take a more lenient view for those with extended families;
  • Your claim that the rules were previously relaxed for Punjabi families.

You will recall that I stated openly that I considered the above approach fundamentally wrong, dangerous and extremely unhelpful for those of us who are working hard in the areas of community cohesion and maintaining good race relations locally.

I only have two questions to ask you:

  1. Would you provide examples of how rules were previously relaxed?
  2. On reflection, do you have any regrets about what you said last Saturday?

I believe that planning policies, such as the Council’s Unitary Development Plan (UDP), exist and apply equally to all residents.  Any planning permission, refusal or enforcement actions are made in accordance with the policies set out in the UDP and they set out the general direction in which change will be encouraged or resisted.  I would personally resist a relaxation of any of these policies for certain racial or ethnic groups.  I regret that we have a different point of view on this.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Mark Bowen
Conservative Parliamentary Candidate in Feltham & Heston

Content of my email to Leader of the Labour Group

May 13, 2008

Councillor Sharma,
It will come as no surprise to you that I am writing to you about the remarks you made at the ‘Save Our Homes’ event last Saturday at Osterley Hotel.
During your speech you claimed that Members from the coalition groups are putting pressure on Officers in the Planning Enforcement team to go after people.
Please answer the following questions:
1. How does this pressure manifest itself and what evidence do you have for this taking place?

2. Do you have a problem with any of the successful prosecutions that were instigated by LBH against those who did not comply with enforcement notices?  If you do, which ones?

3. More generally, you and I listened to the concerns expressed by those who attended the event.  What changes, if any, do you believe need to be made?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Councillor Bowen