As a boutique firm of architects, EngineRoom is never surprised at the shambolic nature of our current planning regime. We work all over the UK and it is amazing to realise that while we have relatively prescriptive planning rules, they are always translated differently from one region/borough to another. This is not just in design aesthetics but in the actual due process of the planning system. The system occasionally permits architects to speak at planning committee meetings in support of an application but in other boroughs they cannot and the process is dictated on the whim of committee chairpersons.
A recent project of ours underlined this issue, where the chair of the committee wouldn’t allow a planning application to be considered at the committee stage because he personally didn’t like the scheme! This was in spite of the fact the scheme had been given a glowing recommendation for approval by their own professional planning officers: hardly a democratic process methinks!
No names, no pack drill but safe to say our client, who’d forked out a planning application fee of c£20k, didn’t think much of the process. Given the poor value for money from the council, we did try to persuade our client to see if they could sue under the Sale of Goods Act. What larks!
Is it really beyond the wit of man for the government to listen to some of us smaller firms who are obliged to deal with this counter-productive planning system on a day-to-day basis? Removing the small-minded, local party politics from the process would also save time, money and a lot of wasted breath. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to have councillors sit some form of competence test before they can sit on such strategically important committees.
We promise not to make it too difficult…of course!