We recently attended Durham County Council’s Planning Committee (South & West) to speak on behalf of clients and their neighbours against an application by the owner of a coffee shop in Gainford, County Durham, seeking an extension of the permitted opening hours until 9.00pm on 35 days per year.
The premises, which were converted to a coffee shop in 2005 with opening hours restricted to between 8.30am and 6.00pm, had been the subject of a series of applications seeking to extend the opening hours beyond 6.00pm. Every application had been refused with and one being the subject of a planning appeal, which was dismissed.
The application was refused with councillors voting unanimously to support the officer recommendation that the application be refused. Our concern, which was shared by the Council, was that extending opening hours into the evening would lead to an unreasonable level of additional noise and disturbance being suffered by the occupiers of nearby residential properties at a time when they might reasonably expect to be able to enjoy peace and quiet in their homes. In refusing the latest application, councillors made it clear that they saw no reason for departing from their long-held views, supported by The Planning Inspectorate, that later opening of the coffee shop was unacceptable due to the proximity of a number of nearby residential properties.
This planning application was refused by Planning Committee and we took the opportunity of attending the meeting to address the Committee and voice our client’s objections to the application. Durham County Council allow objectors to speak for up to 5 minutes, some Councils only allow 3 minutes. Either way it is important to summarise the main issues into a bullet point type format in order to have the greatest impact upon the Planning Committee.
Objections letters that are sent to the planning officer can be longer but are best prepared short and to the point. More importantly, issues raised should be ‘material planning issues’, i.e. matters that can be properly considered in the context of deciding planning applications and relevant to the subject of the planning application.
If you are notified or become aware of a planning application with which you want to object and would like to discuss being professionally represented in submitting an objection letter to the Council and/or speaking at Planning Committee, we are only a phone call or an e-mail away.
Residents of the village of Hunwick are celebrating after a planning Inspector dismissed an appeal for a proposed specialist care home in the centre of the village. Prism Planning had advised the local residents. It is the second time villagers have had cause to celebrate as Prism also helped the same residents overturn the original officer recommendation to approve the development. Steve Barker of Prism Planning originally addressed Durham’s Planning Committee on behalf of the residents and persuaded all of the Planning Committee that the scheme should be refused because of the impact of the scheme on the quality of village life. The Committee’s decision was subsequently taken to appeal. The residents now hope that this is an effective end to the matter and normal village life can be resumed.
The case was notable for its focus on the fear of crime and antisocial behaviour in a tight knit community. With Prism’s assistance, the village was able to persuade the Inspector that care homes had given rise to identified increases in crime and antisocial behaviour in other areas and that as a consequence the villager’s fears were founded upon a credible position. The impact of this on community cohesion was found to be unacceptable. The decision sends out a very clear message about taking realistic community fears into account when considering the long term impacts of such developments.
Prism Planning is celebrating, along with the residents of Hunwick, following a momentous planning decision taken by Durham County Council yesterday. Officers had recommended approval of a proposed change of use of a property in the centre of a village to a children’s home dealing with children with emotional and behavioural issues.
Prism gave a strong speech at the meeting of the Planning Committee, pointing out the substantial body of evidence relating to the impact that this proposal would have on the quality of life of village residents in terms of crime, fear of crime and community cohesion. They were supported in their concerns by the Ward Member, Local MP, Chief Constable and Children’s Social Service Unit within the Council.
It is not very often that planning officers’ views are overturned by their own Members and even rarer when that disagreement is unanimous. Residents of the village were delighted with the advocacy services provided by Prism. However we understand it is unlikely to be the end of the saga as the applicants have indicated that they are likely to appeal the Council’s decision. It will be interesting to see the views of a Planning Inspector on the matter in the light of the specific advice contained within the National Planning Policy Framework on fear of crime and community cohesion.
In the meantime, Darlington residents face a similar challenge to a proposal in their area and attended the meeting to watch the debate.