Agent’s Drawing – The Fallout

After the Council had conceded that the enclosure had been built 2.7m1 too high we met at the South Shields Sailing Club on 3-Mar-14 to decide what to do. Thirty or more of us decided to raise a Petition and we would write to the Council asking for the removal of the enclosure, or at least to meet with us, and explain their actions.

I wrote on behalf of the people at the meeting and passed their wishes to the Planning Manager and thanked him for confirming that the enclosure was 3m too high. The requests were also ignored, neither of these two events happened and the Council reverted to the position they held in September 2013 2; that there was no material variation in the height.

A stage 3 letter (technically a stage 2 letter if the Council’s Complaints Procedure had been progressed properly) was sent to the Chief Executive on 7-Jul-2014 explaining that the enclosure was not only too wide but too high as well:

On the 5th Sept 2013 work started at UK Docks premises on River Drive to build a slipway shed length 22.3m, width 13.1m and height at end facing River Drive 15.5m.
On 27th Sept an application was received in the planning office from the agents for UK Docks, Messrs Maughan, Reynolds Partnership Ltd to meet conditions of a previously granted application ST/0242/96 for a slipway shed length 22.3m, width 12.2m and height at end facing River Drive 12.5m.
This discrepancy is still not acknowledged by your Council after 9 months of work on this site.

I had anticipated that the meeting arranged the following day was unlikely to resolve anything in my favour.

Meeting 8-Jul-14
I accepted the Head of Development Services offer to view the relevant plans, 8296/14, because I could explain to him that the drawing was to scale, was approved and showed a river end of some 16m much as I had explained to the Planning Manager some five months before. I did not know that the final Building Control inspection was on 13th June otherwise I would have known beforehand that there would be no point in the meeting – see correspondence 21 & 24 Nov 3.
My suspicions that the meeting would be unproductive were confirmed at the meeting because drawing 8296/14 was not tabled. The three Senior Managers:

  • Head of Development Services – Mr G Mansbridge:
  • The Planning Manager – Mr G Atkinson
  • Head of Environmental Services – Mr Rutherford?

were told that the one that was brought, 8296/1A, was unacceptable because it showed each end of the structure to be the same height.
As the enclosure did not slope down towards the river with the same gradient as the slipway and the plans show the ridge of it to be level there is an inconsistency which explains why . ./1A was never authorised.
The information about 1A was not communicated to the rest of the senior staff because the Ombudsman was later advised wrongly that 8296/1A (or its twin . .1/B) was approved.
The fact that the Agent’s drawing 8296/14 was not tabled and the Planning Manager was still trying to push forward plans that were contradictory, not approved and contained errors confirmed for me that its roll was especially important.
It confirmed in my mind that the cover was nearly 3m too high and the Planning Manager knew about it, it was he after all that approved the details required by a condition of planning permission ST/0242/96/UD.
I was concerned that two misrepresentations aired in Mr Mansbridge’s Stage 2 would continue to be repeated. They were, 1) “the approved dimensions are those which are annotated on drawing number 8296/1A” and 2), “the engineer also chose to include a gable elevation of the structure on the same drawing but it was not drawn to scale.” and so I wrote to Customer Advocacy about them.

Reminder 1 to Customer Advocacy; 12-Aug
I was also concerned that the conduct of Messrs Cunningham was being overlooked write a long and complex email outlining my worries about the UK Docks Development, part 1 deals with the misuse of the formal complaints system and part 3 deals with the expansion of the yard but part 2 deals with the size and includes:

The height: I would like to add that at no point all this correspondence has Mr Atkinson, and he heads the Planning Department, said that I am wrong in my assertion that the shed is built 3m too high. Mr Mansbridge in his letter says that the engineer did not draw the gable on drawing 8296/14 to scale. The fact that the dimensions of the portal column are given (an industry standard RSJ 686 x 254mm) and the projected width of 12.2m give lie to this.

Reminder 2 to Customer Advocacy; 29-Aug
I became concerned that at a meeting arranged to discuss the most significant drawing that I was using to make my case was not tabled and this would be overlooked. I wrote to Mr Mansbridge and copied it to Customer Advocacy:

Sorry to return again to the meeting 8th July arranged to discuss drawing 8296/14 and the relevant plans. I had hoped at this meeting that we would discuss these plans and in particular my contention that the specification of the RSJ used for the portal column gives scale to drawing 8296/14 which leads to a planned height at the road end of the shed of 12.5m….
… I would like it put on record that these plans were not shown or discussed in any detail at the meeting and only mentioned in passing.

Reminder 3 Customer Advocacy; 5-Sep
This is part of a quite complex issue which I base on the fact that there has been no response to my letter, 04-Apr. Amongst other things, I tell Mr Mansbridge the cover is not built to the correct height,

You should know that it is over 50 ft high and that is what we have been saying for months now. It’s planned height is about 42ft.

The best way I can describe the handling of this letter is disgraceful because he passes it back to Planning who do not even acknowledge its existence.

Stage 3 response, 25-Sep-13
As you can see I have gone to a lot of trouble to stress the variation from the planned height and Customer Advocacy neatly sidestep the issue in their response:

With respect to your comments about the deviation in the measurements of the shelter ‘as built’ compared to the approved scheme, I am satisfied that when George Mansbridge made the decision on behalf of the Council that it was not expedient to take planning enforcement action, he was fully aware of the discrepancies noted in your email with regards to the width of the structure and the variation in pillar angle.

In fact they do not mention the height of the cover anywhere in their letter and they won’t declare on the scale of the gable end in the agent’s drawing 8296/14 either (see height: 12-Aug):

Mr Mansbridge stated in his Stage 2 response that the engineer chose to include a gable elevation of the structure on the same drawing but told you this was not drawn to scale. You have disputed this.

We both cannot be right, anyone who has access to the full sized drawing will see that the river gable end is drawn to a scale of 1:100 and that the height is 16m.
One can see now why the Planning Manager did not bring the Agent’s drawing to the meeting in July and why Customer Advocacy have let the misrepresentation that the drawing is not to scale go. It is repeated by a senior officer to the Ombudsman.
Apart from these two misrepresentations, the implication that 1A is approved is made:

I agree with the Planning Team’s assessment that, on balance, drawings 8296/1 A, 8296/2 and 8296/4 can be reasonably considered to show the approved development.

It is no more than an ill founded opinion. Firstly 8296/2 which is authorised, contradicts the Council’s assessment of the planned height using drawing 8296/1A and secondly the Planning Manager was told in February that it was unreasonable to say that 8296/1A, and 1B, were approved. That time our view was backed up by reference to 8296/14.
So they have started with a false premise and said:

I have not considered this point further because it is clear that drawing 8296/14 was submitted in 2013 for the purposes of discharging a planning condition and as such, could never supersede the previously approved plans in terms of defining the dimensions of the approved development.

Thus implying that 8296/14 must support the planned height as built which is, of course, not true. I think it is entirely possible that the author of 8296/14 referred to authorised drawings and documents, such as 8296/2, from 1996 when it was drawn.
It might be worth noting again that the height of the cover has not been dealt with because they say:

Mr Mansbridge was confident in this case that the service of an enforcement notice was not appropriate based on his assessment of the case and his substantial experience, knowledge and expertise of planning matters. Mr Mansbridge discussed the case with the Council’s Solicitor and with the Chair of the Planning Committee. I appreciate residents’ dissatisfaction over this matter but hope you can understand the difficult situation the Council was faced with and the balanced judgements that have had to be made.

We do not know what Mr Mansbridge discussed with the Council’s Solicitor but the Chair of the Planning Committee is Cllr John Wood and he has been warned more than once, as has Mr Mansbridge, that the cover is too high.
One can only guess but we do know that Customer Advocacy have not mentioned the height in their response and they have sat on the fence regarding the scale of the Agent’s drawing.
They have not addressed my complaint about the conduct the two planning staff and certainly not my complaint the cover has been built 2.7m to high. It would appear that the repose on behalf of the Chief Executive has been written to deceive the Local Government Ombudsman more than to clarify the situation.
I did ask them who was responsible for making sure that the cover was built to plan before I wrote to the Ombudsman but they declined to answer3.

1 – Duplicity of the Planning Manager re complaint 248789
2 – Reversion by the of Head of Development Services
3 – Who is responsible for ensuring that buildings are built to plan?
4 – How the Senior Planning Officer mislead the LGO

Planning Issues in South Shields