STC ignore Material Variations from Plan

22nd February 2018

Dear Paul,

When you said last summer, “The thought of having to tell UK Docks to modify their new shed plus the repercussions it would have on the second proposed shed must give them nightmares.” I thought it a very polite way of putting it because while it would have not caused not much in the way costs to the public purse if the Council had asked them to remove it before work was restarted on it in 2014 the cost would rise exponentially as each step was taken towards completion of UK Docks Plan* for the slipway off River Drive.As one can see their plans bear little resemblance to that for which they were given permission and just look at the extra width at roof height, some 6m, to accommodate the travelling crane for a start. The gantry of which lay in the yard for several weeks at the end of 2013. If you remember the shed had stood a skeleton for four months while we argued with the Council about whether it had been built to the approved height.

When you let me know that the sixth frame was being put up in August last year you asked me how long I’d known that there were six sets of footings not the five for which UK Docks had been given permission. The answer is that I don’t know and it does not matter but it probably matters to the Council judging by their reply my email to Councillor Anglin on the 8th August 2017.

UK Docks had more than 10 years to make a retrospective planning application but they did not. When the building inspector checked the footings in 2001, there was a note on the inspection report that the lowest two pairs had not been finished because of the tides but there is no indication of how many more there were. Similarly the Inspector did not report that they were set a meter wider than permitted.

It appears that UK Docks were planning a much larger shed than that for which they had been given permission and hid this from the planning office i.e. the people that determine whether the has been any material divergence from the plan. All we know is there is no record of the size of the footprint. We do not know what went on between the building inspector, UK Docks nor the planners but I think our claim that the Council were negligent (item 4 of the Petition) was justified.

The Council state that assistance of the public is often crucial to the success of enforcement action:

AREA PLANNING GROUP & BUILDING CONTROL
ENFORCEMENT POLICY July 2008


6. Assistance from the Public


6.1 The assistance of the public is often crucial to the success of enforcement action by the Council. Due to the level of building activity being carried out in South Tyneside, it is not possible for the Council to identify all breaches of planning and building control, given the current staffing levels. The Council will encourage the public to provide any information that may assist in resolving an enforcement case. We will treat such information with confidence unless it is necessary to use it at an appeal or in court when the information will be made public. In such a case, we will seek the individual’s consent before making it public.

  1. They were told on 16-Dec-13 that it was nearly a meter too wide but denied it when they said the base was compliant.
  2. They were told on 10-Jan-14 that it was 3m too tall as well as a meter too wide but it was denied it when the Planning Manager said “The dimensions of the steelwork have been checked on site and they are in accordance with the measurements shown on the approved drawings. The variation in the angle of the pillars is not considered to be material.”
  3. They were told on 8-Aug-17 that the sixth frame was not in the plan: “The extra set of footings were very obvious once the frames were up in September 2013 and the Council still did nothing. All plans of 1996, whether approved or not, give an overall length of 22m not 27.5m. None of them show 6 frames.” but it was ignored on the pretext that I was talking about a second shed so a formal notification was sent on the 15-Dec-2017 to, planning.enquiries@southtyneside.gov.uk:

The grant was for a structure length 22m, height 12.8m and width 12.2m and the footings were laid in 2001 to meet the first condition. The footings were made to suit a structure with 6 frames and of a length overall of 27.5m thus breaching the second condition.

This is not a minor material deviation from the permitted plan.

There has been no response to this and they have had two months to respond; perhaps because they are no position to deny it as they did with the height and width.

The denials on width and height seem to amount to serious misconduct by both the Principal Planning Officer and the Planning Manager and what was considered to be their abuse of the Council’s Complaints Procedure was reported to their Manager, Mr Mansbridge, 4-Apr-14, but he did nothing about it.

Evidence that the two planning officers have been misusing the complaints procedure has been ‘airbrushed out’ by presenting an alternative history of events to the Ombudsman, paras 21,22 and 23, and misinforming her about what the plans actually say, paras 33 & 34, of the final draft, 15-Apr-15. The summary of it was then used to misinform other interested parties such as the MP for Northumberland.

What started of as a Planning Officer’s mistake in telling some Residents and Councillors that the shed had been built to approved plans when it had been built without planning permission was to lead to the Council eventually giving misinformation/misrepresentation to the Ombudsman and so on. In brief the misrepresentations are:

Paragraphs 21-22: “Mr X says he told residents this at a public meeting. The Council accepts these measurements were wrong.” The Council did not accept the measurements were wrong and the public meeting took place after it was established that the shed was a nearly a meter too wide and nearly 3 meters to high.

If you still have the Council’s response to our Petition you will see that Mr Mansbridge said, “apart from the width these dimensions are either entirely in accordance with the approved plan, or subject to such minor deviation that they are properly categorised as non-material changes” but by the time we get to the Ombudsman’s findings, paragraph 23, the departure in width is described as “non-material”.

A notated copy of 8296/14 was sent to the Council with the notice of the breach of condition 2 and I sent a copy of it to the Ombudsman with a brief explanation, Jexplanation14.pdf which I have attached and her response was, paragraph 33, “He says the Council cannot prove 15.5 metres relates to the land end not the river end. I do not agree.”

Similarly an explanation about the Council’s favoured drawing was sent to the Ombudsman Lexplanation1A.pdf and although note 2. should be conditional “approved if one concedes that the river end is 15m”, it must have sown sufficient doubt in the Inspectors mind that a Senior Planning Officer sent her an amended copy from 1997: 1B – paragraph 34.

There was no mention of the height in the first draft of the Ombudsman’s report and I realised that the whole complaints process should be turned on its head. The staff conducting the initial investigation could say what they wished because they knew at the end of the complaints process the Ombudsman could or would be used to gloss things over.

You can see now why they are so desperate to avoid the inconvenience of having to acknowledge the existence of the footings for the sixth frame especially as they form part of the application ST/0461/14/FUL submitted by the agents, Gary Craig Architectural Services to the Council in June 2015. It does not reflect well on the Planning Officer handling Phase 2 of the development, Gary Simmonette, either.

I’ll copy this email to Customer Advocacy so they can look into the reasons for the complaint about the breach in planning control being ignored and I’ll let you know how I get on though I do not expect any improvement on their email of the 11th August.

Kind regards

Mick Dawson

3 thoughts on “STC ignore Material Variations from Plan”

  1. From: Michael Dawson
    Sent: 15 December 2017 16:51
    To: Planning Enquiries
    Subject: Breach of Grant ST/0242/96/UD

    Dear sir or Madam,
    Please see attached Grant, 4-Sept-1996.
    The grant was for a structure length 22m, height 12.8m and width 12.2m and the footings were laid in 2001 to meet the first condition.
    The footings were made to suit a structure with 6 frames and of a length overall of 27.5m thus breaching the second condition.
    This is not a minor material deviation from the permitted plan and the fixing of the sixth frame in August 2017 appears to be an attempt by UK Docks to hide the extra set footings from the planners/building inspectors.
    Yours sincerely.
    Michael Dawson
    When UK Docks laid the foundations for the slipway cover in 2001 the included an extra set of footings but appeared to have kept this hidden till Cllr Anglin and Customer Advocacy were told about it on Aug 8th. Between them: see comment below, they also managed to conceal the extra footings were in breach of planning control. This enquiry has not even been acknowledged.

  2. From: Alison Hoy on behalf of Customer Advocates
    Sent: 11 August 2017 11:31
    To: Michael Dawson
    Cc: Cllr John Anglin
    Subject: RE: Extension of UK Dock’s Slipway Cover, River Drive
    Dear Mr Dawson
    Your email to Cllr Anglin (8th Aug) has been forwarded to our team in line with your current contact restrictions regarding issues raised regarding the UK Docks boat shed.
    I must advise you that this letter is raising your historic complaint again which has been thoroughly investigated by the Council and the Local Government Ombudsman, therefore will be placed on file.*
    Regarding your comments regarding the additional boat shed, this was subject to a separate planning application and the Council’s planning department advise that past issues do not affect the validity of any new planning applications. Following the standard planning process, planning permission was granted on 1 February 2016 for the additional work. There is nothing for the Council to add on that matter as this does not raise any new issues for Planning.
    yours sincerely
    Alison Hoy
    Performance and Information Support Officer
    Customer Advocacy
    *South Tyneside Council use the Local Government Ombudsman’s Inspectors, by misinforming them, to cover up misdoings by their Staff and they now provide Cllr Anglin with the same service.

  3. From: Michael Dawson
    Sent: 08 August 2017 14:01
    To: Cllr John Anglin*
    Cc: Office Manager: MP for South Shields; Customer Advocates; 4 Local Residents
    Subject: Extension of UK Dock’s Slipway Cover, River Drive
    Dear Councillor Anglin.
    Please see letter attached. I have used this format because of the large number of references used.
    The trouble with the Council is that they can say what ever they want without any evidence about the existing slipway cover (shed) and they are believed. If I and other residents say something to the contrary e.g. it is 3m too high, and provide evidence and we are not believed. There is something rotten in the borough.
    The extra set of footings were very obvious once the frames were up in September 2013 and the Council still did nothing. All plans of 1996, whether approved or not, give an overall length of 22m not 27.5m. None of them show 6 frames.
    There have been suggestions for a way forward, which include involving the relevant Secretary of State, going to the press and involving the police but I think it probably best to properly involve our MP but please let me know quickly which side you and your fellow Councillors are on as UK Docks are currently preparing to extend the shed and the permission for that was gained by deceit (the planning Committee were told the existing structure was built within the permitted height).
    I can go into far more detail if you have not been convinced that the existing shed or cover has no permission for its current height but I hope that will not be necessary.
    Yours sincerely,
    Michael Dawson
    *Cllr Anglin had been advised it was also a meter wider than planned in December 2013 but ignored the obvious breach in Planning Control – the Planning Officer, a Mr P Cunningham was ignoring and/or denying there was any breach.

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