16 August 2010

.....tell a big one

Somerton has been told, ad nauseam, that land at Badger's Cross, owned by (District Councillor) Canvin and currently the subject of planning application 10/02027/FUL, enjoys an existing B2 use which means that (District Councillor) Canvin can have his way with the land as he pleases. This position was made abundantly clear in the supporting documentation provided in May of this year by Boon Brown, planning consultants to (District Councillor) Canvin. The application was presented by Shaun Travers of Boon Brown who also happens to be an ex-SSDC planning staffer.

The position was reinforced by Mr Matt Frost, another ex-SSDC planning staffer, who now works for Boon Brown and who, at the meeting of Somerton Town Council's Land & Property Committee held on 27th July 2010, stated:

"Thank you Chairman, Members, my name is Matt Frost from Boon Brown we are the agents on behalf of the application, thank you for letting me speak tonight. Members, this is an application for a minor extension, refurbishment and recladding of the existing building on the Badgers Cross site. Its also for improvement to the existing access and also for associated earthworks and landscaping to make good the previously excavated surrounding ground. Members, its important to stress that this site has an established lawful use for B2, that is general industrial uses and, as such, it must be understood that the continued use of the building and the access for general industrial purposes does not require planning permission and that can continue in perpetuity. There is no change of use proposed as the intended users, I understand a company called Wainscot Stone, operate within the B2 use class consequently they can operate from the site, served by the existing access without further planning permission. Members of the Committee, planning permission is only required because of the physical alterations to the building as they will materially affect and change its appearance. But given its tired and shabby appearance is it not a change for the better. (coughs excuse me) Upgrading the access requires planning permission as this is directly onto a classified road. This will improve highway safety over and above the continued use of the existing access. What's more, this must be giving betterment. Accordingly, the County Highway Authority have raised no objection to the planning application. Again, planning permission is required for the associated earthworks and landscaping as they amount to a significant engineering operation but this will surely improve the character of the surrounding area subject to appropriate landscaping. There is no objection from the Council's landscape architect and my client is very happy to submit a detailed landscaping scheme in due course as could be required by a planning condition. Members of the Committee, in summary, the intended use of the site does not require planning permission. We are simply applying for associated works to improve the appearance of the site and to improve highway safety. On that basis, we hope that the Town Council are able to support this application and I am happy to try and answer any questions that I may be able to do so. I would add the slight caveat there that this is one of my colleague's planning applications who is on holiday at the moment but I will try and cover it as best as I can. Thank you Mr Chairman."

However, earlier today, 16th August, I received an email from the Planning Officer dealing with the application, Ms Claire Alers-Hankey, which states:

"My original understanding of the site was that a B2 use existed as a result of planning applications granted on the site in the 50s and 60s under planning references 24771, 2621/A and 2621/C. These files are on microfiche, which you can see at our Yeovil office. However, correspondence from planning file 01/01430/COU dated 18th June 2004 would seem at odds with this, as a letter states the site has no lawful planning use as the site has been unused for some considerable time. Due to the fact there is a question over the use class of the site, we have asked the agent of the application to amend the application to include 'Change of Use' in the description. Once this information is submitted, we will be re-notifying consultees and neighbours on the application for an additional 21 day consultation.

As a result of the delays this issue has caused, the planning application will no go to the August Area North committee meeting; the earliest date it will go to the Area North committee is September 22nd."

So, it would now seem that (District Councillor) Canvin will have to apply for a 'change of use' and it will be interesting to see how that application is dealt with by the various interested parties. But its worth asking if the original planning application had not been subject to public scrutiny, would it have just passed quietly through the system and ended up confering on the property a use to which it was not entitled? Its difficult to say but, had that happened, who would have been the beneficiaries? The obvious answer is the owner of the land, (District Councillor) Canvin. And that situation would have been enabled by ex-SSDC staffers Frost and Travers who both now work for Boon Brown, planning consultants to (District Councillor) Canvin where fees would have been generated from the process.

And in all of this, I'd like to ask who is speaking for the community of Somerton? Certainly not Somerton's District Councillors.

Till next application, I'm Niall Connolly