The Planners – BBC2 Thursdays at 8pm

Did anyone see the programme on BBC2 last evening (thurs 31/1/13) called ‘The Planners’.

 

When i was flicking through, it caught my eye and luckily it was at the start so my wife and I decided to sit and watch it. Within a few minutes i knew what we were to expect and it didn’t let us down.

From a lady wanting a dropped kerb crossing to her house, to a typical rear house extension, massive new homes development and a solar pane installation, it had it all!

Perhaps the best thing the programme dared to show was how the planning team work with residents/consultants but also their own internal departments and the planning committee.

We can honestly say that the programme was a very good reflection of what goes on in the planning world and thought it presented a fair and frank look at the behind the scenes operations of both clients and planners.

I cant think there will be many people that thought the lady wanting a dropped crossing should have been refused. Hers was the last house of 17, the 16 all having prior consent for dropped kerbs, yet hers was refused at planning committee by a majority of 1 vote. If anything, it shows how sometimes, even with the best consultants and common sense on board, that things just don’t go your way.

The elderly couple with the solar panels, Again i was pleased that it took the opportunity to show the way conservation officers think and rationalise sometimes. I don’t think the gentlemen in the programme came across at all well, as despite claiming it was personal, he did mention it makes him smile when he gets his own way!. Not very conducive to showing the public you have the conservation interests at heart!

Im glad they won on appeal, as although it was a listed building and very prominent roof, the shots filmed looking along the wall with single storey roof to one side, yet a 5 storey 1970’s glazed monstrosity to the other side. It really would have been ironic to refuse something as forward thinking as having solar panels fitted.

The one that many will probably relate to is the house extension to the rear. A neighbour was to erect a single storey extension, with a wall long the boundary. The programme portrayed the old lady as living in her rear room and how the light would be affected as she demonstrated by pulling a curtain closed to plunge the room into darkness. I have two issues with this.

1)the curtain was an very unfair and incorrect way of showing the effect of light. The garden looked in full sun, which leads me to believe it was south facing. As such, irrespective of the neighbour extension, the ladies rooms would be flooded with light the full day. This was proven by it passing the light tests, where they check against ‘right to light’. A simple procedure we can carry out for our clients.

2) It was made out that the couple extending were ruining the ladies life. Yet, the lady chose to live in one of her house. There was no mention is using the front room although granted, we don’t know the full details.

Another issue was raised by the ladies family. This was how the planning committee was not qualified in any way and how could they be best to judge what should be allowed and what shouldn’t. I agree wholeheartedly but ironically its the other way around for us. Many in my profession feel that sometimes an approval is rejected based on unqualified ‘opinion’ rather than based on a trained knowledge of Architectural design and planning.

A number of applications have been objected to by Parish councils (who are also consulted), with the vast majority of objections being of a ‘not in my backyard’ approach and largely unfounded statements re size/massing/affect on neighbours amenity etc.  We have even had one parish Council state ‘we agree with neighbour comments’ when in fact, no neighbours had commented!

Overall a great insight into the daily working of ‘our world’ and hopefully it did a good example of why there is a need to have things properly planned out from the start, which means clients projects are submitted with the best chance of being approved from the outset, rather than involving a planning committee, which as we have seen, can be an uncertain path. Interestingly, many ‘self submitted’ applications seem to end up going this route as the information is usually a little unclear leading to objections from neighbours and caution from the planners.

 

I Cant wait until next week for the next instalment. If you missed it, you can watch it on BBC i Player

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00tw844