Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting WN NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
Council pledges fresh crackdown on planning laws
A FRESH crackdown is taking place on rogue landowners and developers who have broken planning laws in Worcester.
Council chiefs are shaking up their own guidelines on dealing with people who routinely flout regulations.
The city council’s planning enforcement team had complaints about 279 alleged breaches during 2011/12, but only one person – a homeowner in Timberdine Avenue – was prosecuted for it.
Once a complaint is made bosses look at it in detail and assign it to seven different categories of importance, with level one resulting in immediate enforcement action.
The wording of the levels has changed so they are clearer to understand and give a greater chance of a positive outcome.
Level two means the council will attempt to negotiate a compromise with the landowner or developer, and if that fails it will take “immediate action”.
Complaints lodged at level three used to give any developer six months to make changes to a property, but from now on they will be asked to submit a fresh planning application after negotiating with officers.
Level seven is a brand new category, which is when the council is satisfied no breach of the rules has occurred, despite a complaint being made.
Minor wording changes have also been made to the other categories.
The overall guideline surrounding the rules has also been changed, which now instructs the council to act if it is “expedient to do so”, in an attempt to avoid it wasting taxpayers’ money on minor breaches.
A report on it, which is due to be debated by the city council’s planning committee, says the old policy “has held the authority in good stead” but the new one reveals what the public can “reasonably expect” to clearly get.
The issue of planning breaches is expected to become more important due to the coalition Government’s attempts to simplify the development laws.
A new flagship housing policy calls for property owners to be allowed to build more extensions without needing planning permission.
At the moment extensions under 10ft in size do not need formal permission from a local council, but the Government wants to change it to 20ft.
The move has been heavily criticised by the Local Government Association (LGA), which has said it would “give the green light” to unsightly development.