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Watchdog bangs drum for green belt policy consistency

Published: Thursday, 21st July 2016

Local Government Ombudsman calls for green belt policies to be applied correctly and consistently by planning authorities…

The Local Government Ombudsman has reminded planning authorities of their duties to correctly and consistently apply relevant policies when considering planning applications in the green belt after criticising a council for allowing a much larger dwelling to replace a dormer bungalow.

The Ombudsman’s comments came following a complaint against St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council for failing to apply national and local green belt policies consistently when allowing the replacement of a dormer bungalow on green belt land with a five bedroom house.

The Ombudsman recommended that the council apologise to the two sets of neighbours who complained and pay each £250 to recognise the time, trouble and frustration and loss of confidence in the authority.

The Ombudsman said that when comparing and considering the existing size with the size proposed councils must take account of all dimensions, including how those dimensions are distributed. They cannot, without reason, select some dimensions and disregard others.

Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin said: “To protect the green belt, when considering planning applications for replacement homes, councils should take into account a whole range of measurements to ensure any building is not materially larger than the one it replaces.

“Planners cannot simply pick and choose the measurements they use but should take into account individual circumstances of the case to determine which are the most relevant. Planners should also be clear and consistent in their decision-making to ensure public confidence in the planning process.

“While it is not my role to say whether the application should have been allowed, I would expect the council to give careful consideration of the proper application of national and local green belt policy should another application for the site be received.”

View the press release

Roger Milne