6 April 2014

Full council meetings / OBN / useless planning enforcement

The Swiss Chalet, Church Passage, Chipping Barnet, 4 April 14
With due deference to Private Eye Mr Mustard brings you the Order of the Brown Nose (OBN) which makes nauseating appearances at every full council meeting and is it any wonder that the average member of the public takes no part in civic affairs? Luckily, Mr Mustard is otherwise occupied this Tuesday evening, playing snooker so that then he doesn't have to listen to sycophantic questions from the Conservative councillors who haven't otherwise been heard or to condescending and dismissive answers to opposition questions.

Look at this OBN one:

Question 73 Councillor Lisa Rutter

Does the Cabinet Member agree that the transition of our planning function to Capita seems to have gone very smoothly? (appearances can be deceptive)

Did she manage to write this all by herself or was it suggested to her. Actually probably all by herself as it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding. The planning function of Barnet Council has not officially been transitioned to Capita, although it might have been in practice, but, according to the council website moved to the rather stupidly named Re (Regional Enterprise) Ltd (the abbreviation Re being so capable of misunderstanding that it has to be spelt out inside parentheses) which company has 99 shares of which 50 are held by Capita Symonds and the other 49 by Barnet (Holdings) Ltd on behalf of the Council, the Directors are Richard Cornelius and Andrew (Black Hole) Travers.

Answer by Councillor Joanna Tambourides:

Yes, the transition has been very smooth. In particular, the Planning Department has continued to maintain its high performance when making planning decisions and is now in the top four Local Planning Authorities in London (34 planning authorities in London) for speed of decision making (based on Communities and Local Government performance tables).

There has also been an extension to the scope of enforcement actions taken, in so far as, a number of direct planning enforcement actions have been taken against unauthorised development, subject to enforcement notices, where illegal developments have been physically removed by contractors employed by the Council (some of these actions were against “beds in sheds”).

The Planning Service has also been able to accelerate delivery of the Council’s regeneration and major developments programme.

Now let us look at what has happened on the ground. A property developer decided to make inappropriate changes to a building inside the conservation zone. There were howls of protests from locals who like their area as it is, including from the Barnet Society. The matter ended up with the planning inspector at Bristol who decided the building should be restored to its former state. Such a simple decision to implement.

Except that Barnet Planning can't seem to manage to, or don't want to, enforce the decision.

Instead of the straight removal we have this from the principal planning enforcement officer (who seems to be principal but not sufficiently principled)

As far as I understand a smooth render will be applied to the boards now in place. Other than there being a smooth rather than rough render the external appearance should be as previous. If the gaps in the boards are patently obvious or there is an uneasy relationship between neighbouring properties the owner will be asked to rethink. Essentially we would like this building to be rather inconspicuous so as not to compete with the old library or church, if this is achieved we might be able to overlook some variation from the previous form.

No, no, no. Put it back as it was. No shilly shallying. The planning inspector said to put it back as it was not something like it used to be. Like this.

credit: Barnet Society

No ifs, no buts, exactly as it was before the illegal works commenced. It is our town (Mr Mustard is a resident of High/Chipping Barnet and looked at this view out of his office window for 20 years). Listen to the Barnet Society who are trying to keep it as it should be.

Nothing else will do.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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