We want to build an extension to our house, in a conservation area, to make sure that the house will be suitable for my wife; who has Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. We are at the pre-planning advice stage of applying for planning permission.

After a little negotiation, the planning officer and the conservation officer seem to be slowly warming to our plans and have indicated that our latest proposal is likely to be considered favourably.

The fly in the ointment is that the highways officer is saying that because we are adding a disability adapted bedroom, this proposal will need another parking space to satisfy their regulations. Our house was built in one of the oldest parts of the town and has never had any parking space so this requirement is impossible to comply with. We use the nearest on street parking and since my wife is no longer able to drive we have just one car, so quite how our proposal causes us to need another parking space is a mystery.

Because the roads near our house are also fairly narrow, they are stating that there will be difficulties with delivery of materials and construction vehicles – however, many people in our immediate neighbourhood have had construction work done very recently and there is a house just around the corner that has even tighter road restrictions but has just been granted planning permission.

Finally, the highways officer makes assumptions about my wife’s illness and states that she will need more frequent visits from the doctor and may need emergency vehicle access which will exacerbate the parking problems in the neighbourhood and lead to residents complaints – quite how the highways officer has enough medical knowledge to pronounce on whether and how often we will need doctors and ambulances is a mystery; also, having lived here for 28 years we know how to negotiate with our neighbours about parking if any of us need any special access – people have delivery vehicles all the time ranging from couriers white vans, heavyside building materials for gardens, delivery trucks with furniture and white goods…the list goes on.

But for all the reasons given the highways officer is not supporting our proposal – also citing traffic management issues on the public highway (our road has no through traffic)

My wife is well known and popular in the area and has a huge amount of support and empathy from our neighbours, most of whom are aghast at the intransigence shown here.

Does anybody know how much weight the highways officer’s support carries in the planning decision? Also, since other residents have had construction work carried out, without any such conditions, is it even legal to discriminate against a disabled person on the grounds that they may need a doctor’s visit?

Sorry about the rant but I am feeling so frustrated with what seems to me to be a ludicrous situation.

Comments
  • Mark Brinkley

    Julian,

    Unless you are withholding other factors which might change the story as you have described it, you would seem to have a very good case to overrule the objection from the highways officer. Normally they have quite a bit of sway where there are issues to do with vehicle access or added vehicle movements, especially when considering new homes. But an extension on an existing house? I’ve never heard of highways having a deciding vote in such instances. The whole sub-plot about doctors visits and ambulances is utterly irrelevant – they would be a feature whether you had an extension or not and, as you say, it’s absolutely nothing to do with highways or planners.

    If you are well known and liked in the community it might just be worth lobbying your local councillors on this one and pointing out the absurdity of the situation. The planning committee have the final say, not the planners, not the highways dept.

  • Julian Martin

    Thanks Mark.

    I’m not withholding any other information, I was dumbstruck when the planning officer forwarded me a scanned copy of their report.

    However, I have taken your advice and spoken to one of our local councillors who was also totally bemused by this. He tells me that the planning officer has the empowerment to say that they’ve noted the highways officer input but that they are going to support our proposal anyway, and has said he will speak to the planning officer to that effect.

    If the planning officer does not feel able to do this, the councillor (who is one of the more influential planning committee members) said that he will personally sponsor our application, so I can’t ask fairer than that, even if it’s an extra hoop to jump through

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