Public Question Time
- Meeting of Annual Budget meeting, South Somerset District Council, Monday 28th February 2022 6.30 pm (Item 115.)
Council was addressed by the Chairman of Long Sutton Parish Council. He asked why so much development had been allowed to continue without the required consents at 2 sites in Long Sutton and why have stop notices not been executed in spite of the Ward Members insistence. He also asked why retrospective and certificate of lawfulness applications had been approved against national planning and environmental health policies. He asked what the role of town and parish councils and councillors was in the planning process and did the elected members now feel superfluous to requirements in planning matters? He said a recent site meeting in his village included the local MP and Chairman of Area North Committee without the Ward Members knowledge or the Parish Council informed as a courtesy with no feedback given.
Councillor Tony Lock, as Portfolio Holder for Protecting Core Services thanked the Chairman for his question and replied that he understood that the questions referred to a property with a number of live planning applications and therefore it would be inappropriate to provide any specific comments until the applications were determined.
He said it was not illegal to carry out development without securing planning permission. Such work was undertaken at an owners own risk and if found to be unacceptable would be the subject of an enforcement investigation and, if necessary enforcement action. The decision to take enforcement action involved many factors including an assessment of immediate harm to protected assets, the scope for regularisation and the wider public interest. The authority was currently pursuing a number of enforcement actions where development or land use had been found to be unacceptable.
The approach an applicant takes to promoting development or seeking to regularise development was not in itself an enforcement issue so in dealing with one or multiple applications the issues officers would assess would remain the same.
It was important to note that applications relating to the lawfulness of development and land use were determined based upon evidence and applications for planning permission and listed building consent were determined based upon planning policy and material considerations. Material considerations would include environmental issues and SSDC had officers who would provide advice on such matters to the planners.
Town and parish councils were invited to comment upon all planning applications. This provided the opportunity to raise relevant planning issues and material considerations that may otherwise not be apparent from the application itself. For all but the smaller applications for householder development and listed building works the town and parish views would also inform decisions about whether the applications would be considered at the relevant committee or by officers.
It was agreed to provide a copy of the response to the Chairman of Long Sutton Parish Council and the Ward Member, Councillor Gerard Tucker, requested that the response also include the reason why a stop notice had not been applied at the property.
(Subsequent to the meeting, the following response was provided regarding the stop notice:
Finally, and in relation to the specific issue of the justification for serving Stop Notices, this enforcement action is available to the planning authority to use in extreme circumstances, usually where there is the immediate likely loss of historic or other protected fabric or environments unless urgent action is taken to prevent further development.
Where an applicant chooses to make multiple applications to the council, this approach, whilst potentially time consuming for all parties involved, essentially relates to matters of process and does not, of itself create a circumstance where a Stop Notice is the appropriate solution.
Where development is undertaken without planning permission and proves to be unacceptable, (but the works themselves are not reaching the thresholds that necessitate a stop notice) the Council is able to serve Enforcement Notices requiring partial or total demolition of unauthorised development.)
Council was addressed by a resident of Mudford Road, Yeovil. He observed that whilst Coombe Street Lane was closed, traffic was using Mudford Road instead and it was noticeable that HGVs with a long wheelbases coming down the hill created a seismic shock as they reached the level ground. Although he lived 60m away, the tremors could be felt through his house. He asked if it was possible to have some measurement taken of the seismic shocks to see if they posed any threat to local houses.
Councillor Peter Gubbins suggested that Somerset County Highways had such measuring devices and they could be contacted through his local County Councillor Andy Kendall.