is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. It is often applied to the growth of bureaucracy in an organization. Like a borough council! And a borough council planning department.
A week ago we wrote about cases of missing WLBC Planning files, mainly relating to the Burscough none drainage strategy and consequent episodes of foul sewage in residents’ homes.
WLBC recently informed our resident and anti-flooding campaigner that “With regards the issue about comments being removed from the website after 12 months, I am still awaiting feedback from other Officers of the Council who may have been party to the decision”.
The information duly appeared, like a planning version of War and Peace. “Further to your query regarding the removal of representations from the Council’s public access website, I have now received advice from the Council’s Acting Planning Support Team Leader who advises the following:
“The Council’s policy in this matter is specified in our Level 2 Privacy Statement (available on our website – https://www.westlancs.gov.uk/planning/planning-privacy-notices/level-2-development-management-cil-privacy-notice.aspx) that comments and objections do not form part of the statutory register: [So that’s an immediate bugger-off then!]
“The law requires us to maintain the information on the register of planning applications indefinitely, and as such information relating to applications will be available on our website permanently. Comments and objections on applications do not form part of the statutory register. Whilst we will retain electronic versions of these, copies will be removed from the Council’s public access system 2 years after the application has been determined. CIL information may be retained permanently for audit and monitoring purposes. Enforcement complaints are retained permanently as the records are necessary to inform the planning process. [Selective then!]
“This was amended to 1 year in July 2019. Whilst we are not required by planning law to publish comments and objections as part of the statutory register we have, and continue to do so, on the basis that it assists both the Planning Inspectorate and any interested parties should they need to access any documentation in the event of an appeal being submitted. As there is no statutory obligation for the Council to publish this information we are able to set our own internal procedure for publication of anything additional to the statutory register we feel is appropriate and this does not have to form part of an official Council protocol.
“The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 sets out the Local Planning Authority’s duties in respect to the statutory planning register, as follows:
(3) Part 1 of the register must contain in respect of each such application and any application for approval of reserved matters made in respect of an outline planning permission granted on such an application, made or sent to the local planning register authority and not finally disposed of—
(a) a copy (which may be photographic or in electronic form) of the application together with any accompanying plans and drawings;
(b) a copy (which may be photographic or in electronic form) of any planning obligation or section 278 agreement proposed or entered into in connection with the application;
(c) a copy (which may be photographic or in electronic form) of any other planning obligation or section 278 agreement entered into in respect of the land the subject of the application which the applicant considers relevant; and
(d) particulars of any modification to any planning obligation or section 278 agreement included in Part 1 of the register in accordance with sub-paragraphs (b) and (c).
(4) Part 2 of the register must contain, in respect of every application for planning permission relating to the local planning register authority’s area—
(a) a copy (which may be photographic or in electronic form) of the application and of plans and drawings submitted in relation thereto and of any accompanying design and access statement provided in accordance with article 9;
(b) particulars of any direction given under the 1990 Act or this Order in respect of the application;
(c) the decision, if any, of the local planning authority in respect of the application, including details of any conditions subject to which permission was granted, the date of such decision and the name of the local planning authority;
(d) the reference number, the date and effect of any decision of the Secretary of State in respect of the application, whether on appeal, on an application under section 293A(2) of the 1990 Act (urgent Crown development: application)(a) or on a reference under section 77 of the 1990 Act (reference of applications to Secretary of State)(b);
(e) the date of any subsequent approval (whether approval of reserved matters or any other approval required) given in relation to the application;
(f) a copy (which may be photographic or in electronic form) of any planning obligation or section 278 agreement entered into in connection with any decision of the local planning authority or the Secretary of State in respect of the application;
(g) a copy (which may be photographic or in electronic form) of any other planning obligation or section 278 agreement taken into account by the local planning authority or the Secretary of State when making the decision; and
(h) particulars of any modification to or discharge of any planning obligation or section 278 agreement included in Part 2 of the register in accordance with sub-paragraphs (f) or (g) or paragraph (6).
I hope this information assists.
Draw your own conclusions. Our intrepid anti-flooding warrior
responded “Thank you for the information. I really believe WLBC’s procedures are adding to flooding problems. For instance it makes research into planning related flooding issues difficult and it also causes problems for residents, councillors and groups like BFG, who comment on large sites with multiple applications, because the flooding information they supply gets removed, whereas it should be stored for future information and to inform current and future SFRA.
“Bearing in mind the above, WLBC’s public statement last year that it wouldn’t accept flooding information from BFG and that it lost a vital publicly funded flooding report on Burscough for 6 years in 2010. I believe that WLBC procedures, however coincidental, mean that it doesn’t store or use most of the flooding information provided to it that conflicts with its development strategy for Burscough.
“For example, removing comments caused an odd things happen during the YTF Meadowbrook appeal, which went residents’ way but strangely left the planning inspector completely unaware of the very well-known surface water flooding problems on the A59, Meadowbrook, the Truscott estate, Crabtree Lane, square lane etc. They would have been negatively impacted by the development in the form submitted.
“Meaning that the next Meadowbrook application in 2027 will rely entirely on residents resending flooding information which WLBC could so easily have kept indefinitely; or at least kept until they are resolved.
“Please would WLBC kindly supply, by FOI if required, copies of the comments and objections deleted from all of the YTF planning applications”.
In this electronic age how difficult can that be? Or should we be reverting back to reams of paper? Deletion of comments and objections may lead to judicial interventions without full evidence. Murphy’s law suggests that if anything can go wrong it will go wrong, just wait and see!