Following the decision by the Planning Inspectorate to quash Swindon Borough Council's Enforcement Notice, Robert has written the following letter of complaint to Housing Minister, The Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP .
Local Ward Councillor, Bazil Solomon and Curtis Flux, Community Campaigner, Local Resident, NEL Parish Councillor & Conservative Council Candidate for Liden, Eldene & Park South have also written letters of complaint:
Re: 1 Loxley Walk, Park South, Swindon, SN3 2DU
I would like to complain in the strongest terms regarding a planning matter here in my local constituency of South Swindon.
The matter was brought to my attention by local residents almost 18 months ago. A local person, who has a previous history of planning enforcement action against her, had installed a shipping container and a caravan at their property in Loxley Close, whilst undergoing works and it had turned into what I can only describe as an eyesore/scrap/junkyard.
Local residents have been in touch with me daily and I have also attended the site myself to meet with residents and personally witness the detrimental effect that this issue is having upon the local community.
Swindon Borough Council issued an enforcement notice against the owner of the property, who subsequently appealed this, and the matter was passed to the Planning Inspectorate.
Along with many local residents, I contacted the Planning Inspectorate immediately to submit my comments about this issue and my concerns for the local community due to the detrimental effect that this was having.
After a lengthy wait, I contacted the Planning Inspectorate again to ask about a timescale for their decision on Loxley Close and to request that this matter was escalated due to the impact that this was having on the local community. In fact, this matter and the subsequent mess and chaos in Loxley Close was so bad that it captured the attention of the national press and featured on television regularly.
The Planning Inspectorate sent me a rather terse and brief email back stating that the matter would not be escalated.
A few months passed and we were hopeful when finally, an Inspector attended the site. Unfortunately, several weeks passed following this visit and there was no further update.
Last Thursday, 1st April, I was informed by local residents that a notice had been published by the Planning inspectorate. This notice stated that the Enforcement Action had been dismissed.
I contacted Swindon Borough Council urgently and they advised me of the following:
“The Council is disappointed with the decisions received from the Planning Inspectorate, particularly following many recent successes that we have had defending similar enforcement notices at appeal.
“It is regrettable that the Inspector didn’t uphold these notices which were dismissed on technical issues. The Council would like to reassure residents that we intend to continue working to achieve a satisfactory conclusion to bring what the Council consider to be unauthorised development to an end as soon as possible.”
To my knowledge, there was no dialogue or contact from the Planning Inspectorate whatsoever with Swindon Borough Council ahead of this decision. There was no warning that the notices would be unacceptable over the months and in fact, as previously stated, a member of the Planning Inspectorate actually attended the site to inspect it. Why would they make this unnecessary journey and carry out an inspection and then go on to dismiss the notices? It makes no sense whatsoever and it is my constituents who have suffered as a result of this, after enduring months upon months of living in these conditions.
Following the decision, I contacted the Planning Inspectorate to request an urgent phone call with the Officer who made this decision in a bid to further understand the matter and to ensure that any further applications by Swindon Borough Council were not dismissed on similar grounds. I had hoped to improve contact between the two departments as this had been non-existent at the cost of my constituents.
To my shock and dismay, I was informed by the Planning Inspectorate team that the decision had been made and the officer who made the decision had refused my request for a telephone conversation.
I am absolutely appalled by this unaccountable bureaucracy that seems to have no regard for local people at all and I would urge you to investigate this issue as a matter of urgency on behalf of my constituents who are still suffering when this matter should have been long resolved.
I await your full response.
Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP
Member of Parliament for South Swindon
Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice