We spend a lot of time attending planning meetings at local and district councils ensuring that if planning applications are approved, there are conditions in place that ensure that the development takes place correctly and the required infrastructure is built or at least paid for.
This does mean that someone has to ensure that these things happen and this falls to the Enforcement Team at the District Council and the Roads Team at County.
The Enforcement Team investigate concerns that include a breach of planning control, such as:
- Unauthorised works to listed buildings,
- Non-compliance with planning permission,
- Removal of protected trees, and
- Unauthorised changes of use of land.
There are a number of incidences in the last year in Wantage and Grove which have required them to investigate, mainly on the larger developments.
What is it about major developers which makes them believe that they can ignore planning conditions which they have signed up to?
Normally the Construction Environment Management Plan associated with a major development will include sections on noise and vibration (including piling) impact, dust (and mud) management and wheel washing, and working hours.
In the summer there were serious problems with dust from the earthmoving on Crab Hill, even to the point that the workers on the site were wearing face masks, yet residents of Charlton just had to suffer. The planning conditions require dampening down so the dust clouds shouldn’t have arisen.
Mud problems have been evident at all of the major developments including Monks Farm, Grove Airfield, Stockham Park Farm and Crab Hill.
Vibrations from Stockham Park Farm are causing problems to existing residents of Stockham Park.
Many of the sites appear to work on some Saturday afternoons even though site hours are usually limited to 7.00 till 18.00 on weekdays and 8:00 to 13:00 on Saturdays.
On a smaller scale, there are several residents in the area acting without planning permission by absorbing public land to residential gardens, removing protected trees, or building extensions or garden buildings without permission.
The problem at the moment is that the Enforcement Team is very short staffed. There should be a team of 10 people but they are down to 4 due to resignations and maternity leave. They are trying to recruit. These 4 staff have to cover the whole of the Vale and South Oxfordshire.
What’s the point in having a planning team at the Vale if there aren’t the staff to handle enforcement?