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Council chiefs are ‘almost bending over backwards’ to help people undertaking developments in Argyll and Bute without the appropriate planning permission, a South Kintyre councillor claimed last week.
Councillor Rory Colville sought reassurance that the authority would take serious action against unauthorised work after the council published a draft of its new enforcement and monitoring charter.
A council official reaffirmed part of the charter which said that enforcement was intended to resolve a problem, rather than punish a mistake.
The discussion took place during a virtual meeting of the authority’s planning, protective services and licensing committee on Wednesday, March 23.
Councillor Colville said: ‘I want to seek reassurance, because reading about enforcement, it seems to lack any teeth.
‘We are almost bending over backwards to work with those abusing their position.
‘Can you assure us that we do take strong action when it is required?’
Council planning officer Peter Bain replied: ‘We do take breaches seriously. Our approach in the charter very much aligns with the Scottish Government’s planning legislation.
‘It is not intended to be a punishment – it recognises that development is capable of gaining consent and being brought under control.
‘But where we have developments which are unacceptable, we would expect to act with the power that is required.’
Councillor Colville then asked: ‘Is there any indication of officer time which is taken up? Is this a drain on our resources?’
Mr Bain responded: ‘It can be. We have an underlying enforcement caseload, as there are minor breaches of control which take an element of officers’ time, to take retrospective applications and serve notices.
‘We have a resource of two full-time officers and we are facilitating enforcement by drawing on planning officer time.
‘When we get significant breaches of control, that will give rise to resources we don’t have on hand. We need to divert resources to deal with them because they are time-critical to deal with the parties involved.’
The charter, circulated in advance of the meeting, states: ‘Planning permission is required for most development that takes place in Scotland, with the exception of some minor works.
‘However, developers or householders sometimes undertake work without planning permission or fail to comply with the terms of planning permissions.
‘The purpose of planning enforcement is to resolve a problem rather than to punish a mistake. Any action taken has to be appropriate to the scale of the breach.
‘Councils have discretionary powers to enforce planning controls in such cases, if they consider it is in the public interest and expedient to do so having regard to a deemed assessment against the Local Development Plan and material planning considerations.
‘Councils also monitor certain developments to ensure planning controls are being followed. Additionally, the public often alert the council to problems they become aware of.’