In today’s Independent there is an article about Ray Grehan and his ‘flouting of planning laws’. Having been through the planning process a few times I can say that it is often a frustrating exercise in which you hold an asset (the site) but are directed regarding it’s use by a third party who has little to lose based upon their recommendations which often hinge upon opinion.
In Grehan’s case he flew in the face of the planners – something which is very common in one off housing (in fact, you’ll find that every profession involved in housing knows what you can and can’t get away with), with the usual follow up of ‘retention’ being the solution.
He did the same thing many others do, fight with the local council to get planning, then build something different and try to keep it. The ratio of retention granted to that of properties that are forced to get torn down to remain compliant? I don’t know the answer, what I do know of is a long list of granted retentions on houses and no case of a demolition order (with the exception of one property that made news – but they never had any planning).
This just reinforces the message which is: get planning then do whatever you like, because local authorities prescriptive power lies primarily in the time before you break ground. They are then subject to the owner who starts to pay development levies (and if you are smart you do it in instalments because any delay hurts the local authority too). This is just the kind of perverse incentive system that makes me a believer in recurring annual property tax.
Should a person be allowed to build ‘whatever they want’ because they own a site? Maybe not, but if an authority wants to stop a person from building anything at all, then perhaps they should have to buy the property given that they have shown such an interest in it?
In Grehan’s case he was employing (at the time) 150 people in the locality, but initial permission was refused because he didn’t satisfy the clause of having ‘close family connections in the area’, while he didn’t have local familial connections 150 of his staff did. This is the type of issue you see with local authorities, they control ‘who can build’ rather than ‘what is built‘ which is evident by the ex post abuse of planning permission.
Planning is just another area we have to seriously rethink.