Informal Hearing

Three terraced houses with parking, turning head and four local residents’ parking spaces.

Our client had ambitions to build three terraced houses with parking in Bideford, Devon which falls under the jurisdiction of Torridge District Council. The planning history of the land made poor reading with four refusals and a failed appeal already in situ.

The land, in a residential area near a school, had served local people as an unofficial area for parking and green space and therefore prompted several residents to object to the application to develop the area. The initial applications were refused on Highways grounds, so the client working closely with the Highways Department and his local Planning Officers – submitted the latest amended application on 27th January 2009.  This application considered and addressed all of the issues and recommendations raised by the Highways Department. It was thorough in its proposals and included providing a turning head and extra parking spaces for local residents.  This application improved visibility and overall safety in the immediate area and the Planning Officers recommended approval.

However, Torridge Planning Committee had other ideas and, on 13 March 2009, going against their own employed professional’s advice, they refused permission based on highways grounds even though the highways issue had been addressed and the Highways department did not raise any further objection. It appeared that local resident’s objections – which were not legally a planning issue – had been given priority over our client’s legal rights to develop his land.

Planning Appeals Limited was then asked if they could help bring the unsatisfactory matter to a proper, legally irrefutable conclusion. On researching the case it appeared that the client had been put in an impossible position by the Planning Committee. All avenues for satisfying the reasons for refusal had been explored and all directions followed. It seemed unreasonable that the Planning Committee felt they could use highways grounds for a reason for refusal when the Highways Department did not object themselves. Indeed it appeared that our client’s proposals would in fact improve vehicle manoeuvrability in the area.
 
PAL decided that an Informal Hearing would be the best way forward with this particular case. This would allow for the PAL representative to question the Planning Officer and challenge the Planning Committee’s motives for refusal with the Planning Inspectorate present. PAL duly submitted the Appeal Statement and supporting documents followed by the Hearing Statement. On 25th August 2009, Alan Barker MRTPI, Director of Planning for PAL, attended the Informal Hearing along with the client, representatives from Torridge Council and other interested parties (objectors). The matter was heard and both the Council and PAL stated their case. Mr Barker was able to put his questions to the Council representative and ascertain the Council’s stance on this individual planning refusal.
 
On the 9th September the appeal was granted. The Inspector’s report stated, “Overall the proposed development would be likely to improve the free flow of traffic and the safety of other road users and pedestrians”. A total difference of opinion to that of the Torridge District Council Planning Committee but wholly in line with that of PAL.