Warning over legal loophole that allows 'stealth' planning applications
With planning chiefs currently compelled to judge each application on its individual merits, and ignore previous work, people are subverting planning law “by stealth”.
Cllr Nick Peel, Bolton Council’s executive member, said the government is aware of the discrepancy but has so far not changed planning law.
Currently, building a new house on a plot of green belt land is not likely to receive planning permission, but converting a garage into a house has more chance as the most recent change might not significantly encroach into the green belt.
Some developers have therefore been accused of intentionally applying for extensions in stages, to maximise their chances of success.
Cllr Peel added that, under the current system, councillors sometimes have suspicions that applications may be a precursor to a larger development but are unable to act on these feelings.
The owner had applied to turn his double garage into a detached dwelling with a rear extension, which town councillors interpreted as the final step in an attempt to subvert the process.
At the meeting, Cllr David Wilkinson, for Hoskers and Hart Common, said: “We’re seeing this more and more.
“I said at the time, why has someone been allowed to build a garage that looks very similar to a bungalow.
“Well guess what, it is now becoming a bungalow.
“This is a back-door planning application, and a quite inappropriate development in quite a rural area.”
Cllr Gill Williams, for Daisy Hill, said: “This garage was built under the proviso that it would not be built into a house.
“We have had this problem with a few developments, and they have been allowed to be made into houses.”
The application is now set to be assessed by Bolton Council’s planning committee.
On the general problem, Cllr Peel said: “It does not happen an awful lot but when it does it makes life very difficult for planning members.
“Garages are ancillary buildings to a house and can be permitted in rural areas where houses would probably be turned down.
“You can’t look at someone’s application for a garage and reject it on the grounds that they could at one stage apply to convert it, and think planning by stealth.
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“You would be making a judgement on an application on the basis of something that they have not asked for.
“People can then come back at a later date to convert the garage to make it habitable but we have to judge each plan on its merits.
“You can put a condition in that there should not be any further development, but people can still challenge that, and might win.”
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