How Wrong Can You Be?

Recently Captain Pickles was again displaying his ignorance.  Now, I read the Brentwood Bruiser’s latest speech with a mixture of bemusement and confusion, but my overriding thought about the current incumbent of the post of SoS for C&LG was “you just don’t get it, do you?”

Putting that speech aside I then set about preparing to resume a part-heard Inquiry which concluded shortly before Easter.  That Inquiry involved seven appellants appearing in person, each arguing multiple grounds of appeal and with precisely none of them identifying the fact that they had absolutely no evidence or basis in planning policy, guidance or law for what they were trying to do.

Then at 6.15pm at the end of day four (of what should have been a two-day Inquiry at most) there came the appellants costs application:

Followed in short order by this:

Which neatly encapsulates where a large part of the problem lies, in my humble opinion.

The reason this Inquiry took so long had nothing to do with ‘whether I wanted a third week in Tuscany’ or had any views about purchasing a Lamborghini (those of you who know me may need a little time to recover at the thought of my either owning or driving a Lamborghini…).

There was one reason this Inquiry took so long.  One reason and one reason only – and it is the exact opposite of what Pickles was prattling on about.  It took so long precisely because the appellants had not been advised by a planner and/or a planning lawyer.

Had these appellants been advised by a planner and/or a planning lawyer there would have been perhaps two, maybe three appellants running at most only three grounds of appeal between them.  But no, we had seven appellants with nearly twenty different grounds of appeal lodged between them, many of which were fundamentally wrong as a matter of law.

They could not have been more wrong if they tried.  And in that regard they are exactly the same as Eric Pickles.  The problem is not the involvement of planners, lawyers and other professionals.  A large part of the problem is their non-involvement.

As Martin notes in his excellent piece, Pickles needs to beware the Law of Unintended Consequences.  Trying to cut out the involvement of qualified planning practitioners under the guise of empowering local residents will not result in a smooth-running, stable, efficient and effective system of planning.  But it will shift the battleground for lawyers from the application process and the Inquiry to the High Court.  And it will give the lawyers plenty to argue over, too.

So by trying to slash and burn his way through the planning system, intending to speed the process up and vastly reduce the involvement of planners, lawyers and goodness knows who else, Captain Pickles is almost certainly going to reduce the system to a crawl and exponentially increase the involvement of lawyers and others.

Now about that villa in Tuscany – just over 1,000 miles from here by road according to Google.  Should pass quite quickly in a Lamborgini…


About Scott Stemp
Planning, regulatory and environment barrister

4 Responses to How Wrong Can You Be?

  1. Sulla says:

    ‘Thank you for phoning the Halifax helpline, we are always pleased to assist our valued customers. If you have a query about your mortgage statement please press 1; if you would like to speak to one of our advisors about the terms of your mortgage please press 2; for sound and reliable planning advice concerning planning enforcement appeals please press 3; for advice on whom to call as a witness in your appeal proceedings please press 4; to validate your CLEUD claim please press 5; and for all other enquiries, please press 6.’

    Sounds like the BIG-society to me.

    • Scott Stemp says:

      Ha ha ha! Thanks Sulla – I actually laughed out loud when I saw your comment! Thank goodness for fig rolls. I wouldn’t have had the strength to finish the Inquiry without them.

  2. Sulla says:

    It may be Fig Raki instead of Fig Rolls next time round Scott!

  3. Ah, but you see the way Localism works is that Pickles will take arguments like “because we just don’t like it” or “why shouldn’t I operate a skip hire business from my front garden – all my neighbours are too scared to complain” and turn them into valid planning policies that are defendable in law.

    Hey presto – if there is no planning advice then you need no planning advisors…

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