Conduct of Customer Avocacy

Height

Customer Advocacy (CA) failed to mention the height of the cover at all in the complaint at stage 3. Before the  complaint was referred to the LGO they were reminded 4 times that it had been built higher than planned, and the first was sent before Mr Mansbridge’ trap was spring 08-Jul-14:-

  1. Letter to CEO, 07-Jul-14: 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
  2. Email to CA, 12-Aug-14: 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. 8296/14 is drawn to a scale of 1:100 and it is therefore very easy to get the approved dimensions.
  3. Email cc to CA, 29-Aug-14: I think therefore that I am well qualified to pass judgement on the interpretation of drawings of a boatyard shed and raise this issue because you may question on what grounds I can claim that the planned height at the road end of the shed as drawn by Agents for UK Docks is 12.5m. As you may be aware it is built 15.5m high.
  4. Email to CA, 05-Sep-14: It has just come to my notice that the ‘shed’ was signed off by Building Control on the 13th
    June. Is it now the custom for them to sign off buildings that were not built to plan?
    Including email to GM 4-Apr-14: You should know that it is over 50ft (15m) high and that is what we have been saying for months now. It’s planned height is about 42ft (12.5m).

The legal aspects of a complaint need to be considered in their responses at this level before it goes to the LGO and you will see from the 4 examples why they did not address it. If CA had agreed with me then it would have meant that the Head of Development Services had misinformed the Public in his response to the Petition but to say otherwise would go against the evidence of approved drawings. So they said nothing and allowed the misrepresentation that there was no material variation in height to go forward to the LGO.

Scale

The Council’s claim that the drawing provided by the agents (1. Letter to CEO) that it is not to scale is also avoided: “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.

Examination of the A4 copy ,  of one which I presented to the Planning Manager and it will show that the able end is drawn to 1:100 scale and measures roughly 15.5m x 12.2m. Definitely not 18.2 x 13.1m which is the built size. This drawing is used in the original complaint because it came from the approval made by the Planning Manager himself (ST/1146/13/COND Decision Notice).

CA get round the issue by attributing the comment about scale to the Head of Development Services and the comment about the gable end goes forward to the LGO.

Width

CA are nearly as vague about the width, “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.”

I had pointed out that at the height where the travelling crane was fitted the increase in width gained by making the pillars vertical and setting them wider apart was approaching 40%. Incidentally the original plans were for a cover to give shelter and protect the neighbours from the sand blasting etc. not for a shed housing a travelling crane.

On size generally

CA say that they cannot agree with my statement that “the Planning Department. …continue to say it has been built (to) approved plans” as this is simply not the case. Please note that this comment is only valid if one ignores the question of height.

On Checking Dimensions

From all the correspondence it was becoming clear that whoever measured the shed was hiding the fact that it was taller than planned.
Email to CA 21-Nov-14: I have read and considered the reply of 25th September about this development but before I approach the Local Government Ombudsman I need to know who checks that a structure is built to plan if it is not the Building Control Team.
That it has not been built to plan is, to me, beyond dispute:-
a) it does not look anything like plans 8296/1A etc.(STC choice of plan)
b) it is 3m higher than plan 8296/14 allows.

It would appear from the responses by the Council to queries by affected residents that there is no-one taking responsibility to ensure that developments are built to plan.

Reply from CA, 24-Nov-14:  This email has been classified as: PROTECT
Dear Mr Dawson
Thank you for your email dated 21 November 2014 which was forwarded to me for consideration.
I can confirm that as previously advised, the Council accepts that the structure in question does not have planning permission. My Stage 3 response to you dated 25 September 2014 also explained the reasons for the Council’s Head of Development Services’ decision that it was not expedient to take planning enforcement action with respect to the development. I am sorry that I am unable to make these points any more clearly than I already have.She avoided the height altogether it is not mentioned.
I note your intention to approach the Local Government Ombudsman and this is the correct route for you to now follow if you remain dissatisfied with the Council’s handling of this matter.

Yours sincerely
Performance and Information Officer

We had been told the Building Inspector was Mike Telford by the Case Officer when we first enquired about the cover but we did not know who was responsible in 2001.

CA were not going to tell me and hurried me along to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Planning Issues in South Shields