Memorandum submitted by Tim Driver (PB 16)
I am a planning and environmental lawyer, I have over 30 years experience in these areas of the law about half of that time being spent in local government.
In common with all planning lawyers I have views about various aspects of this Bill and will watch its progress with a great deal of interest. However, the above-mentioned clause does cause me some concern in the context of article 4 directions which remove permitted development rights under Part 5 of Schedule 2 to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (SI 1995/418) as amended.
My concern stems from a case which I was dealing when at my last firm (which I left to join this firm in July 2007). The case concerned a site in East Sussex in which I was acting for the owners of a farm which had been used for caravan rallies and the like for very many years. A family dispute arose between one of my clients and his brother as a result of which his brother became effectively estranged from my client and his wife. My clients brother had a share in the farm and for some years had been running camping rallies on a separate part of the farm.
Problems arose with the camping rallies and other events in that there were instances of drunkenness, noise and general disturbance caused by campers going to and from my clients brothers site. There was also an instance of an alleged rape. Local people clearly complained to the local planning authority about the noise and other alleged problems. It seems that in complaining they did not draw any distinction between the camping run by my clients brother and the caravanning operated by my client and his wife although in fairness when I became involved the LPA lawyer made it clear that he and the LPA generally accepted that the problem came from the camping side.
The LPA made an article 4 direction which removed permitted development rights under Part 5. They did so under considerable pressure to find a solution to the noise and other alleged problems and from various public comments members of the LPA made it fairly clear that they saw the effect of the article 4 direction as being to enable them to stop all caravan rallies.
Through me my clients objected to the article 4 direction as this would mean that even if planning permission was eventually granted they would have to cancel a number of regular annual caravan rallies. I also wrote to the LPA pointing out their liability to pay compensation if the article 4 direction was made and they either refused permission or granted it subject to conditions. After some time and apparently as a result of that representation the LPA withdrew the article 4 direction. They then sought to deal with the problems by way of an agreement under s.106 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990. By the time I left my last firm that agreement had not been drafted and my clients caravan rallies were continuing.
I have referred to the detail of this because it was an instance where, first, contrary to general guidance the LPA clearly regarded the article 4 direction as a means of refusing further caravan rallies and, second, they would have made the direction, and used it as a means of refusing permission, but for the possibility / threat of compensation.
I can imagine that if clause 155 was in force an article 4 direction would have been made and, apart from a (possible) right of appeal, my clients would have no financial or other remedy which would have caused them considerable financial distress. In addition, the effect would have been that a number of long running annual caravan rallies would have to stop causing considerable problems and distress to the organisers of the events (several of which were charities) and those attending them. Indeed if clause 155 becomes law this could still happen.
I cannot believe that this is the intention of the Government in proposing this clause or that Parliament would intend to deprive my former clients ( and I am sure there are others in a similar situation) of a large chunk of their livelihood without any right to compensation. The 12 month period mentioned in the clause, whilst of help to those contemplating things like extensions to homes under permitted development rights, will be of no benefit to those running on-going activities under Part 5 (and there may be other parts of Schedule 2 to the 1995 Order which might result in the same unintended effect. I would hope that the members of the Committee (and the Government minister(s) piloting this Bill through Parliament) will look again at this clause and perhaps consider limiting its effect so as to exclude on-going activities such as those authorised under Part 5.