Five-year battle

PUBLISHED: 11:14 20 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:05 06 May 2010

SIR, — This is an explanation to your readers and particularly those residents of Camp Road and Stanhope Road, St Albans. As the person responsible for what is happening on the corner opposite the Crown pub I take this opportunity to apologise for the con

SIR, - This is an explanation to your readers and particularly those residents of Camp Road and Stanhope Road, St Albans.

As the person responsible for what is happening on the corner opposite the Crown pub I take this opportunity to apologise for the continuing disruption caused by the never-ending development.

For those who ask why, the answer is simple - my ongoing dispute with the St Albans District Council conservation team in the planning department. This means I now have two enforcement notices and a stop-work situation.

One could be forgiven for thinking that I have reaped what I have sown. In my defence I will say that in the past five years I have submitted some 15 applications for this corner site, all recommended for refusal by the conservation team report on each one of them. I did succeed once as a result of going to the Department of the Environment at great financial cost.

Assuming therefore that there has been willingness on my part to propose and negotiate 15 different times, what could be the stumbling block? My conclusion is that unlike my position of having to finance this personally to the tune of in excess of £25,000 to date, with a further £15,000 for the forthcoming appeals simply to appease the conservation team, they on the other hand do not have to foot the bill. That is picked up by the public purse. The same public who did not feel it necessary to object to any of the applications or DoE appeals nor have expressed any negative concerns regards the building which has now been there for more than two years.

So what is the issue then you may be forgiven to ask? The fact that the public do not object means the planning department can deal with any application under delegated powers. This inevitably means that it's down to an individual's opinion and the fact that the public at large did not consider the issue of any concern stands for little. There are many examples of this situation having become ridiculous in the decision-making process and expensive to the public having had to be resolved at appeal.

However it seems that the administration has finally decided to deal with these issues and have amalgamated the conservation team into the planning department and given them a planning officer's role. From a position of experience this does not address the issue. Delegated powers still give individuals too much power. What is needed is the incentive to bring officers to the negotiation table and the responsibility of their decisions to be underwritten by financial penalties should they lose their argument at appeal. How can it be that in cases where the public do not feel there is an issue, that an officer's opinion when proven wrong is financially underpinned by the public?

There has to be a way of making planning officers adopt a more helpful role in the planning process. After all everyone involved is conscious that time is money and the present attitude of "you present it and we'll decide on it" is not working nor does it achieve the planning aims of those who would like to influence the future development in St Albans in a positive way.

I hope this goes some way to explain to all those who ask me daily what has brought the work to the corner of Stanhope Road to a grinding halt, and maybe encourage them to hold to account those who are spending their money to be so obstructive.

T. Di FRANCESCO,

Stanhope Road, St Albans.

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