Council Solicitor’s Reply – a Critique

The residents were fairly certain that UK Docks had built their shed wider and higher than permitted but Council just kept repeating that it was approved. The Tyne Gateway Association (TGA) was resurrected as a means to break out of this deadlock but it failed and this can be attributed to Cllr Anglin. In simple terms he had promised the TGA that he would find out if the shed had been built with planning permission. Some of us did not trust him because he had been invited to an EGM (falsely presented an an AGM) by the Chairman and thought we should be in attendance when he met with the Council. This led to a meeting at the Town Hall in November 2013. Our lack of trust was justified as we were again told that it was compliant. Subsequent investigation backed our view that a) it was not built according to approved plans and b) the Case Officer knew that before we even got round to resurrecting the TGA. View Complete Response

Transcript of Gill Hayton’s response. The paragraph numbers have been added and my comments or corrections are in italics:
Mr Mick Dawson Date: 14 December 2018 (12th but decoded on the 14th) By email: mick.dawson@theharbourview.co.uk
Our Ref: GH/ Your Ref:
Dear Mr Dawson
Your complaint about Councillor John Anglin
1. I refer to your emails dated 19 September, 1, 12, 15, 22 (x2), and 26 October, 14, 20 and 22 November, and 11 December 2018 concerning your complaint about Councillor John Anglin. I apologise for the delay in responding to you.
2. I have reviewed your email correspondence and records held by the Council in my capacity as Deputy Monitoring Officer to consider whether your complaint falls within the Members’ Code of Conduct as adopted by the Council, and if it does, whether your complaint should be investigated further.
3. You complain that Councillor Anglin has:
• failed to “obtain clarity’ concerning a planning application submitted by UK Docks relating to development on River Drive during a meeting at the Town Hall on 25 November 2013;
Cllr Anglin not only failed to ‘get clarity’ he repeated the Planning Officer’s claim that the shed was built according to the approved plans. No approved plans were produced at the meeting. It was not built to approved plans. The approved plans show that the shed is nearly 3m taller than planned. All plans approved or not show that the shed is a meter wider than planned.
• misled or otherwise allowed the Local Government Ombudsman investigator to be misled as to the height and width of the development against the submitted plans and whether the differences in the height and width are “material” or “non-material” for the purpose of determining whether to commence enforcement proceedings.
1. the Ombudsman was told by a senior planner that the width was “non material”. The Council had agreed it was material in their response to our Petition;
2. the Ombudsman was told by a senior planner that the height was approved with reference to plans that were not approved which was, and still is, contrary to what the approved plans tell us and that is that the shed is indeed, 2.7m too high.
4. It is helpful if I set out some of the background to your complaint. The subject of your complaint is the planning application and subsequent decisions of the Council not to commence enforcement proceedings against UK Docks.
The complaint was that Cllr Anglin as good as promised to sort the standoff between the Planner, Mr Cunningham, and the Residents with regard to height. He ducked out by siding with the Council and we now have a stand off which includes the width as well as the height.
The planning application was granted in 1996 by the former Tyne & Wear Development Corporation and was subject to 5 conditions. Two of those conditions were “pre-commencement” conditions. The developer commenced works by building the foundations before May 2001 but did nothing further until 2013 when the developer re-commenced the building works. Residents complained to the Council. – the footings as laid in February 2001 could not be used to build a structure without breaching the second condition.
5. The Council investigated the matter and found that the planning permission had been lawfully implemented. They were lawful re condition 1 but irrelevant to condition 2. However it was probably not lawful to say that they had been approved. The Council later accepted that the measurements as taken in 2013 were incorrect The measurements taken by Mr Cunningham in September were never in doubt and were in fact confirmed by me in December 2013. We claimed that the shed was too wide and it is. The planned width is 12.2m – and the width of the building was just less than 1 metre wider than permitted under the grant of planning permission. The Council decided not to take enforcement action against the developer and considered the degree of departure from the grant of planning permission was “non-material” given the overall scale of the building. The width of the footings have been a material consideration since 2001 and Council actually stated that the variation in width was material in their replies to several residents as well as in the response to our Petition in May 2014. Even the Ombudsman agrees with us in her findings:

22. . . .the width at ground level was just less than one metre wider than the permission allowed. The Council decided the developer had not built the shed entirely in accordance with the approved plans and so had not met condition 2. The Council decided this was a breach of planning control.

You disagreed and continue to disagree with the Council’s decision. Correct, I disagree with the Council’s/Mr Cunningham’s decision not to tell the Enforcement Officer about the breach of planning control.
6. You pursued your complaint through the Council’s complaints process and this culminated in a referral of your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman, who decided to investigate the complaint. True and it reveals how easily the process can be corrupted.
Furthermore, the Ombudsman disagreed with your assertions as to the height of the development and whether that was not in accordance with the plans. The Ombudsman found no fault in how the Council determined the permitted height of the landward end of the development was 12.5 metres plus 3 metres. The approved drawings give the height of the landward end as 12.7m. When the Council told the Ombudsman that the landward end was 15.5m they omitted to tell her that other end on the same drawing was shown as 15.5m as well. They did tell her about the gradient (2.7m) so that gives the landward end as 12.8m.
She is no longer addressing the original complaint. She has rewritten my complaint so that she can repeat the misinformation given to the Ombudsman as if it was true. One only has to compare the plans with what has been built to see that there was very little true in what the senior planner told the Ombudsman.

Paragraphs 7-15 have been reviewed elsewhere.

16. If you are dissatisfied with my decision not to investigate your complaint further, then under the Council’s protocol for dealing with allegations of breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct you may request the Monitoring Officer to reconsider this decision. You can request a review by emailing monitoring.officer@southtyneside.gov.uk or in writing to Mike Harding, Monitoring Officer, South Tyneside Council, Town Hall & Civic Offices, Westoe Road, South Shields, NE33 2RL.
She has not answered the complaint and in all likelihood because the complaint has not been registered I will be sent round the houses again.

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