Officer power

SIR – Barrie Mort asks Who s in charge? (Letters, Herts Advertiser, February 25). When it comes to planning matters – the officers. The evidence? David Edwards, the council s Principal Legal Executive (Common Law), December 28, 2006, commenting on a pla

SIR - Barrie Mort asks "Who's in charge? (Letters, Herts Advertiser, February 25). When it comes to planning matters - the officers.

The evidence? David Edwards, the council's Principal Legal Executive (Common Law), December 28, 2006, commenting on a planning refusal notice for 5/06/0646:

"The reasons for refusal cannot be supported by the council's professional planning officers."

The reasons for refusal were adopted in committee, with advice on the precise wording being given by a professional planning officer, in the person of Mr Alan Moorhouse, the council's development and control manager.


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That advice went against a clear decision from the Planning Inspectorate contained in an earlier appeal relating to the same site, by including "rear to rear" distance in the wording of the refusal notice.

The officer report to committee set out the Planning Inspector's rejection of the arguments on "rear to rear distance" in some detail. Mr Moorhouse earlier advised solicitors acting for a local resident (May 22, 2006), that "clearly, a key issue with regard to how the authority determines the current application [5/06/0646] is the outcome of the appeal [on 5/05/1485] and any comments or points specifically made by the Inspector."

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Advising that rear to rear distance be included in the refusal notice on 5/06/0646 was a bold decision for a planning officer to make, one might therefore think, since it made the reasons for refusal potentially untenable at appeal.

Mr Moorhouse was also the planning officer visiting the site four days after the decision to refuse and failing to ensure that subsequent enforcement action reflected the wishes of the planning committee in refusing an "as built" planning application - notably with regard to the first-floor elevation.

Officers may similarly still be in post who are not above misrepresenting the decisions of a planning committee to the Planning Inspectorate.

The refusal notice for 5/05/1485 states: "The proposal comprising seven flats would result in an unacceptable density, intensification and cramped overdevelopment of the site..."

In the council submission for the appeal, the same refusal notice reads: "The proposal comprising seven flats would result in unacceptable intensification and cramped overdevelopment of the site..."

All reference to density has been excised, yet the Inspector found the planning argument on density compelling. Are these matters simply to be buried as "past history"?

For the council's Chief Executive Mr Goodwin "does not propose to pursue it any further"; nor, it seems, the Liberal Democrat planning portfolio-holder Cllr Chris Brazier, who sat on the planning committee responsible for taking the relevant committee decisions throughout, and who ought to be best placed to reassert proper democratic control over this shambles.

IAIN GRANT

Furse Avenue, St Albans

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