Planning process ‘ineffective’

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The rear of the development - as seen in drawings on the website of Jonathan Dunn Architects

We, the residents of Meryon Court in Rye, welcome this development of a long empty and unsightly plot on Cinque Ports Street. The mix of shops and homes should benefit this part of town.

But we also feel that the manner in which this planning matter has been handled is less than fair or satisfactory for neighbouring homes, notably for ourselves, where the new housing is immediately behind our gardens.

We were surprised when the building work reached the point at which the height of the walls and the roofs were clearly in excess of the original plans – and especially shocked at the unauthorised and significant increase in the building dimensions given that we had participated constructively in the original planning consultations with the architect and his staff personally. Indeed, we have long supported the need to develop this neighbouring site on Cinque Ports Street.

In addition, we now understand that the developer has carried out unauthorised works at variance with its legal obligations under the party wall agreement – this, too, without prior consultation or agreement with us or the party wall surveyors.

It seems that the planning process is somewhat ineffective because the developer can build contrary to original planning permission, which in this case was based on partially misleading drawings, and then simply apply for “retrospective” planning approval to cover the increase in building height.

It is noteworthy that the “retrospective” planning application was only lodged following our complaints to Rother that the building was higher and more intrusive to neighbouring homes compared with the approved plans. The “retrospective” planning application notice on December 12 appears to have been fast-tracked to put the application before the January planning committee meeting. The consultation period was itself truncated by the Christmas holiday season.

We appreciated the planning officer’s agreement to accept late submissions – but were surprised to learn that, before receiving our letters, he proceeded to recommend approval in his report to January’s planning committee meeting, although we were assured our letters were circulated to the committee.

It will be worrying to other residents of Rye to see this apparent signal for applicant property owners to simply follow the formal planning procedure initially, but then build as they choose and apply for “retrospective” approval later, should there be any objections.

Fortunately, persistent correspondence and engagement of our Rye Ward Rother councillors, Rye Conservation Society and our surveyor have helped to persuade the planning committee to defer its decision and make a site visit. In addition, the planning department has now arranged to take its own measurements rather than rely on the developer’s architects. We are encouraged that the site visit will take place prior to the next Rother planning committee meeting and hope for some positive news to rebalance the interests of Rye residents with those of property developers.

All in all, our experience should be a wake-up call for Rye residents, which we hope will benefit them when commenting on neighbouring property planning applications. In particular, we would recommend close engagement in the planning consultation, very close monitoring of the building development and prompt and persistent communication with Rother planners and councillors.

 

David Brilliant is a resident of Meryon Court, Rye