Our plans for a replacement dwelling have been approved. They were submitted in the last week of July, registered with the planning department on August 7th and approved 12 weeks later. A little slower than the eight weeks which they are supposed to take, but it could be worse.
The permission comes with no less than 11 conditions.
1. The permission only lasts three years: this is now standard for all planning permissions. It used to be five years, but this was effectively reduced to three a couple of years ago.
2. They demand the right to check the materials we will be using on the roof and the walls, and also request that we ensure a privacy screen at one end of the balcony.
3. We have to produce a hard and soft landscaping scheme, with details of what is there, what will be retained (and how it will be protected) and what will be planted.
4. A requirement that all this work is carried out in the first planting season after occupation.
5. The Tree Officer is to have the say-so on which trees should be protected or replaced.
6. Especially a walnut tree in the back garden.
7. The grannexe must not be a separate dwelling
8. Visibility splays to be created along the roadway entrance
9. Turning space to be provided
10. A brick and flint wall dividing the house from the neighbour is to be retained.
11. Hours of activity are defined for the building works
None of this is unduly onerous. But a lot of it still rankles because it’s all so intrusive. Conditions 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10 and 11 are arguably really none of the council’s business. As owner of this property, I can and should be able to do what I want to the vegetation. The condition and indeed existence of a boundary wall is a matter to be decided between me and my neighbour. And the hours of activity on site are again issues for me to sort out with the locals.
The question is why is the council getting involved in all this stuff? The site is not listed, it’s not in a conservation area, none of the trees are subject to Tree Preservation Orders (at least they weren’t before we started), so none of the conservation buttons are hit. Yet they still cannot resist micro-managing all manner of details which they wouldn’t be at all concerned with, were we not about to replace an old house with a new one.
Back in 1959 when the existing house received its planning permission, things were very different. There were just two conditions placed upon the builders:
1. That the access should be constructed to the satisfaction of the Highway Authority.
2. That a strip of land 8ft wide should be left at the front of the site to allow for possible highway improvements in the future — a condition which seems to have vanished from the 2007 version.
The 1959 permission takes up one A4 sheet of paper. The 2007 permission fills five pages.
I don’t blame our planners for this state of affairs. They are simply responding to guidelines funnelled down to them from council and ultimately from central government. But the contrast in the conditions placed upon the planning permissions between 1959 and 2007 is quite startling. It’s hard not to conclude that today we live in a world that is far more bureaucratic, far more intrusive and with a lot less freedom.