Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Sam Burns

The main role of the LGO is “to consider whether the council has acted reasonably in accordance with the law.”

One would assume that to make a qualified judgement, the LGO must:

Understand the law in detail that relates to the specific dispute.

Know the area that relates to the case.

Have the ability to analyse all the facts in a timely manner.

Have a data base of disputes that relate to the area and specific council.

Given the constraints on finance of local councils, it is important that planning judgements are applied in accordance with the law. “Right First Time” must be the mantra. It should be done in a fair and balanced manner that is fair to the applicant and fair to the neighbours that are going to be affected by it.

Follow-ups should be essential to the planning process. If the applicant proposes to complete something in a specific time scale it should be followed up. So too should the local authority ensure that any Conditions applied to a planning decision are met in full. Failure to comply should be penalised by the local authority.

Planning applications on large sites should not be taken in isolation, but should be fed into an established data base providing details of:

What was said in the application.

What was done.

What the follow up found.

Eg: “I need to build an agricultural dwelling for my worker.” (I then get the tie removed and sell the house, then apply for another house). This is not right and would be found in a specific data base (rather than having time spent by complainants pointing out the issues).

The LGO should be the police of the planning procedures and the arbiter of fairness.

It should have the strength and authority to enforce planning rules where constant failures are happening.

Normal hard-working, tax paying citizens should be protected from unscrupulous farmers and developers who want to make money out of other people’s misery.

The government wants a big society; it wants people to be happy; it wants fairness and it wants to save money. This is an opportunity to improve systems to meet these objectives.

Would Politicians/Planning Officers or developers want to have these developments in their back yards? If the answer is yes, let them prove it by having the importation of 100,000 tonnes of building waste dumped illegally next to their house.

The LGO must listen to all sides and find out which local authority has the fewest complaints. Look at their system—see which authorities throughout the country have the best procedures—and apply Best Practice to the rest of the country.

Analysis of the facts and good consistent procedures and follow up should be mandatory —ie landscaping should be done in accordance with the submitted plans (but never checked by the local authority. Next planning application submitted with the same scheme—none has ever been implemented.)

People should be trained to do their jobs and not to be biased towards the applicant.

If the LGO analysed the facts and made their judgement in a timely manner, then they could complete a greater number of cases.

If they put procedures in place to avoid repetitive problems, then their workload would diminish.

The LGO’s function should be to do themselves out of a job by improving the standard of all planning departments.

This will never happen as prevarication and lack of progress keeps them in a job.

Sam Burns

March 2012

Prepared 16th July 2012