Monday, 08 August 2022

Councillors defend relaxation of planning enforcement in garden office row

Councillors defend relaxation of planning enforcement in garden office row

COUNCILLORS have defended a decision not to take any action over a planning breach in Woodcote.

Stuart Walker, of Whitehouse Road, built a 3m tall garden office (pictured) in his back garden without planning permission.

As the Henley Standard reported last week, next door neighbour Ian Adams, 88, complained to South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, that the timber building was too big and blighted his garden.

The council confirmed the building was “unauthorised development” but refused to take any action, saying it did not give rise to “sufficient planning harm” to even warrant a site visit.

This followed a decision in December by the council to no longer enforce minor breaches of planning rules.

It said officers did not have time to deal with the backlog of cases which had built up during the coronavirus pandemic.

But opposition councillors claimed this would give the green light to rule breaches.

Mr Adams said he felt frustrated.

He said: “I don’t like the idea of being at loggerheads with my neighbour. I don’t want a war, what I want is to emphasise the ineffectiveness of planning. I think this is a pretty strong case to illustrate that.”

Jo Robb, who represents Woodcote on the council, asked its enforcement team to review the decision, saying she had “real sympathy” with Mr Adams.

But she said: “Their
professional view remains that enforcement action in this case would not be

“ Not all unauthorised development results in formal enforcement action and there is always a range of factors to consider. All development has to be assessed on its own merits and in its particular context.

“The purpose of the new enforcement statement is to provide clear and objective criteria against which the council can assess planning breaches.

“This enables enforcement officers to focus on the most serious breaches where there is real planning harm and a strong legal and planning case that can be justified in the wider public interest.”

Anne-Marie Simpson, cabinet member for planning, said: “We have not relaxed our approach to planning enforcement.

“We recently introduced a new enforcement statement and triage system that simply provides clarity and transparency on how we assess alleged breaches of planning control and ensures our service is efficient and focused on issues causing unacceptable planning harm.”

Peter Dragonetti, who represents Kidmore End, Whitchurch, Goring Heath and Mapledurham, said: “The enforcement team assessed the garden building and concluded that it wasn’t causing an unacceptable planning harm so the council decided not to take formal action.

“There’s no reason to believe the team would have come to a different conclusion under the previous system.”

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