To receive a presentation on enforcement activities in the Green Belt.
The Environment Forum received a presentation on Enforcement in the Green Belt.
Robert Oles (Pollution Control, Planning Enforcement and Appeals Manager) gave a verbal presentation. The following points were highlighted:
· There were seven officers including two trainees working on planning enforcement.
· Between them they covered a wide range of issues.
· Their work was led by the priority and severity of any breach.
· The team dealt with approximately 1,200 cases a year.
· Their work had been severely hampered by the covid pandemic. A new covid risk assessment had been introduced. They were currently unable to enter any premises to check for enforcement, but could view from public areas.
· Recently several members of staff had been allocated to support the NHS, time had been lost because staff had had to self-isolate, courts had been closed so no prosecutions had been progressed.
· Breaches on the green belt included unauthorised scaffolding companies, caravans, scrap yards and vehicle storage.
· There were currently 5 cases in court, 6 notices being investigated and 6 cases where the Council was looking to serve notice on hold.
· Conservation areas were a number one priority which would be investigated within 24 hours of a report.
· In 2019 there were 39 cases in conservation areas and in 2020 16 cases.
· Of the 25 cases outstanding in conservation areas: 15 were due to be taken to court when the courts reopen; 2 have been completed and notices are due to be served; 3 applications are awaiting decision: 6 cases have been completed and 3 cases could not be finalised due to Covid restrictions.
· The service was trying to be proactive and had a programme to look at empty and derelict buildings in town centres, and especially pubs. In April the team had planned a focus on each conservation area. They would be looking to serve notices where required.
· There were currently no issues in conservation areas that had not been investigated.
· A question about the land on a site next to 1 Old Park Ridings had been bought to the attention of officers before the meeting. Work on this site had been closed down three times, since it had first gained planning permission 4 years ago. In December 2020 an enforcement notice was served. The owners have until February to appeal. Officers had met the builders on site last Monday and they were keen to comply.
2.1 There were concerns about many derelict pubs across the borough which were often key buildings in a community. Many have been boarded up and look untidy. Officers aimed to review them all and would serve an untidy notice if necessary to make owners bring them up to an acceptable standard.
2.2 Officers were thanked for their work on the site next to 1 Old Park Ridings and asked to continue their efforts. It had been made clear to the developers that they could not make a new application for the site, but would have to stick to the original plans even if this meant demolishing what was there and starting again.
2.3 Officers were asked what could be done to ensure that these cases could be monitored. Cases could go on for a long time. There needed to be a better way of communicating what was being done.
2.4 The two new trainees in the enforcement team had been on a steep learning curve. Their training programme had suffered during the pandemic. But plans were in place and officers were confident that there was enough knowledge and skills in the team and in the legal department to do the work required.
2.5 Consideration was being given to putting an enforcement register on line, similar to the information provided on planning applications. There were some data protection issues that needed to be worked through. Robert Oles offered to provide an update on any issues outstanding if information were provided.
2.6 Legal action was being taken against the owners of the Mays Inn.
2.7 A person could apply for a licence separately from a planning application. These were not linked, although officers in both teams did liaise with each other. Queries could be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2.8 If action against a property is taken this information is included on the land registry and to the mortgage lender.
2.9 Work can be carried out by the Council and charged to the property owner. This had happened recently in the case of the North Lodge at Whitewebbs where the Council had carried out urgent works and made a recharge.
The Chair thanked officers for the presentation and members for their questions and comments.