Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The other side of the fence

You know I don't want the neighbours to be successful with their planning application.  But maybe I'm just being a bit selfish.  Let's look at things from their point of view, or what I imagine to be their point of view.

You moved into your house 13-14 years ago and within a couple of years you'd applied for planning permission to expand the house adding almost 50% of the volume of the existing house.  For whatever reason you never went ahead with those plans but ever since you've been dissatisfied with your house.  You don't like the kitchen and there's only one small bathroom and so you haven't really bothered with maintaining the house that much.  In the back of your mind you know your house will be changing and all of those little things will get fixed then.

And then in 2005 a developer put an idea in your head.  Knock down the house and build flats.  Make lots of money and move to a bigger and better house, one that has a bigger kitchen and maybe a couple of bathrooms.

Your architect worked really closely with Brentwood Council Planning office to the point that you were almost promised the rubber stamp of approval.  In fact the planning office did recommend approval but there was a problem.  Something happened and you decided to withdraw the plans.  

This put you in a difficult position.  You feel you alienated your neighbours in the area with the planning application but the plans were never agreed by the council.  You carried on living in the house you were never happy with and because the plans to move on were put on ice you made some improvements to the house.  You did get a new kitchen and you did do some of those little maintenance jobs.

And then the development opportunity became feasible once more and you knew that last time the approval was as good as in the bag, or so you thought.  So you resubmitted the plans, making some minor changes to make the flats more saleable and by considering some of the planning department's recommendations from the previous application.

The trouble is that there are a few things that have changed since the prior application which make the original plans less feasible.  Also your main neighbour was suffering from post natal depression the last time you applied and, frankly, she only managed a lame 35 letters in to the council.  This time she has children at school and access to a much bigger network of people who are likely to be concerned by the development.  Also in 2005 nobody was using Facebook, and now everybody is.  Blogging and Facebook and Twitter are all widely used and available.  Many more people use e-mail and have computers with internet access and smartphones.  The world is far more connected.  Opposing a planning application just got a whole lot easier.  All people have to do is to complete a simple online form.  The confidence you had when you submitted the application is waning.  Local residents are more politicised and politically savvy and they are displaying their views in their windows.  

You feel more and more isolated and your confidence about getting plans approved is starting to evaporate.  You are considering your options and contemplating an alternative plan. 

You honestly believe that your plans are the best alternative for the community because your plans are what you think fits with the look and style and scale of the neighbouring properties even though your neighbours might not agree.  You believe that if your plans aren't approved then someone else will get much less attractive plans approved.  Local residents should be grateful for the time and money that has gone into the consideration and thought behind the plans.  And partly you are concerned that if the plans are rejected then you will have sunk an unrecoverable small fortune into the enterprise.


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