February 2016: Why is mastering the planning process proving so difficult?

In my page 3 comment in the January issue of Pig World, I talked about a failed planning application for two BQP-type sheds in Herefordshire. The big issue with that particular case was that the planners had gone against the planning officer’s recommendation to pass the project, and instead rejected it for ill-informed, emotional reasons.

I feel I have to return to the topic this month because of another failed application –  this time in the even more agricultural county of Lincolnshire. Another two BQP-type sheds have failed to get planning consent, although this time for very different reasons.

The application, for a site at Upton, near Gainsborough, was rejected primarily because of an objection from the Environment Agency (EA) prompted by a lack of information about how pollution, noise and odour would be managed. This resulted in the planning authority, West Lindsey District Council, deciding that a full environmental impact statement was required, and without it the application had to be refused.

With the knowledge that there are already a large number of similar buildings around the country, this situation immediately brings two questions to mind. First, if it’s been established that environmental impact assessments are required for these buildings, why wasn’t one automatically carried out in this case? And second, the EA must be similarly familiar with these type of buildings by now, so unless there were any particular potential pollution issues with this site, why make the applicants jump through additional hoops just for the sake of it?

I make these points because, as far as I’m concerned, there are sufficient precedents around that – unless there are special circumstances to the contrary – should make receiving planning permission little more than a formality.

Given that planning and environmental legislation should be the same across England, there should be no shortage of successful applications available online – complete with the planning officers’ comments – to help build the perfect application.

All the information is in the public domain these days, and like lawyers looking for a legal precedent, planning advisers should also do their homework – a planning application is expensive enough without having to pay twice.

As an interesting postscript, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service also raised an objection that there was an insufficient water supply for dealing with any fires that might break out at the site. And Animal Aid raised concerns that in the event of a flood or fire, the pigs could not have been safely evacuated. Must be a case of the water source that might lead to flooding isn’t wet enough for fire fighting!

Incidentally, Animal Aid collected 4,000 objections to the development from an online campaign, but with the application failing on a technicality, it’s unclear how that might have swayed the planning committee.

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About The Author

Graeme Kirk has been editor of Pig World since March 2013. Born into a farming family in South-west Scotland, he’s spent his career in agricultural journalism.