The Cases Of The Missing WLBC Planning Files

As Burscough’s flooding scandal rolls on

20 December 2019 Gavin Rattray (GR) asks Principal Planning Officer (PPO) at WLBC “I’m looking for some help and advice please. When looking at the documents on the planning website at the old application for 2016/0516/FUL Erection of 124 dwellings Land To The North Of Meadowbrook; I cannot find any objections from residents, BPC or BFG stored on the site. Please can you tell me where they can be found? Please can you tell me why they don’t seem to be kept with the rest of the application information in the same way as professionally produced reports?

“Please may I also have some questions answered about 2019/1182/ARM 267 dwellings on YTF, in anticipation of BFG making comments on drainage/flooding? Firstly I cannot find anything listed under the drainage statement/strategy/plan documents.

“Please can you tell me whether this is an oversight? And when will they be published? Please can you tell me when the 2019/1182/ARM application will be heard?

“The 6 houses in Lordsgate Lane, which were the result of a previous application on YTF, never met the original special drainage conditions for YTF, and the reason that happened was because no drainage details were published until after all the homes were constructed. The drainage conditions were delegated to the director. Please can you tell me if there any way WLBC can ensure, especially in light of the Lordsgate Lane YTF application, that the drainage conditions details are published in good time for us to comment and that neither the whole application nor just drainage are delegated but all heard by the planning committee?

“Finally, please can you tell me how WLBC normally ensures, again especially in light of the Lordsgate Lane YTF application, that building for this phase won’t go ahead until after planning committee have agreed that the drainage conditions can be met?”

PPO WLBC 6 January-WLBC Officer after a period of leave “I have checked the drainage information for the latest application 2019/1182/ARM and the drainage strategy and summary report along with the road and drainage layout are accessible. I do not know at this early stage when this application will be presented to Planning Committee. The earliest date is 20th February and after that it would be either 19th March or 23rd April.

“In terms of drainage conditions, if all the information submitted is found to be acceptable by the Lead Local Flood Authority and United Utilities without the need for a pre-commencement condition, this will be made clear in their consultation responses. If, however, further detailed information is still required, but the principle remains acceptable, then a condition may be requested by LLFA or UU.

“It is not a criminal offence for builders to commence work on a site prior to obtaining the necessary authorisation

 However, it is of course not a recommended course of action. Should this happen, the Council will have to assess the expediency of taking enforcement action at the time.

“With regards your email of 2nd January, I trust you will now be able to access the documents you require. However, for application 2016/0516/FUL only the original plan, documents and statutory consultation responses are now available to view. The Council only retains the neighbour responses online for a 12 month period after the decision of an application due to data protection legislation”.

7 January GR “WLBC maliciously stated in a public meeting (name, time and date are available if needed) that BFG wasn’t a proper flooding group. From that point on until 2019, neither LCC nor WLBC recognised BFG as a flood action group (FLAG); and we can only perceive BFG must have been classed as residents making neighbour responses and our planning comments deleted after 12 months. BFG was never informed that would happen.

“WLBC’s interpretation of data protection legislation means part of the scale of the flooding problems in Burscough is being hidden from residents, the planning committee and the planning inspectorate (example the Meadowbrook appeal) through removing planning comments from BFG and residents. UU, LCC and the EA, despite widespread problems here, haven’t had to plan or spend money on flood prevention.

“WLBC’s interpretation of data protection legislation, may also explain why residents have complained to BPC that the information they provided to WLBC about their flooding problems has sometimes been published by WLBC and then later lost and sometimes just lost. Because we work for BPC, please could BPC take up the above issues with WLBC?

“The Parish council may want to check to see if WLBC has also been deleting their own comments on previous YTF applications after 12 months also (and compare it with their treatment of information on other sites elsewhere)? Ps: Because WLBC’s actions, has skewed the YTF evidence base in favour of its own vested interest and its preferred developers, it won’t be institutionally able to recognise fault”.

PPO WLBC 7 January “In terms of the removal of correspondence from older applications, anything that is marked as neighbour rep is removed after 12 months of the decision (12 months is used as this is the time period for submitting an appeal on a planning application). Comments from the Flood Group are recorded as neighbour reps as it is not a statutory consultee. However, the comments are not deleted from the file and are still retained by the Council. The Council has taken the decision to cease publishing neighbour reps after this time – there is no requirement to publish them at all. However, if you wish to view any previous comments then they can be “re-published” for a limited time”.

GR 7 January “Wasn’t WLBC aware that BFG were formed at the request of the parish council and work for them? May I ask one last question, do WLBC delete parish council and councillors comments after 12 months also”.

PPO WLBC 7 January “Yes, I think the Parish Council responses are also taken off after 12 months”.

GR 7 January “That doesn’t by itself explain why residents, BPC and BFG planning comments are removed. In an effort to understand, please can I see the relevant part of the Council’s document retention procedure? Can I ask was the procedure published where users of the planning portal might have been able to find it?”

PPO WLBC 7 January “I will have to refer your email to the Planning Support team and/or the Development, Heritage and Environment Manager as I have not been party to the document retention procedure. I will liaise with them and either they or I will get back to you later in the week”. NB Nobody “got back” yet!

GR Conclusion

“It’s an appalling policy. It means that regardless of the planning decision you must somehow register an interest. How could someone like me, not resident in Burscough but with an interest in local planning decisions, trust a case file while researching for precedent?”.

Other cases of missing files include the Aughton Pet Crematorium including many protestors’ comments,  and the Beacon Park Golf Course.

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