Left feeling short-changed

Should any reader be contemplating a planning application with Horsham District Council, be forewarned! Despite a high fee and the fact that such submissions often come with significant personal implications – such as extending a home to accommodate elderly parents – don’t think for a moment that you will get any of the courtesy and consideration that you might expect would be part of such an expensive ‘service’.

Even though your name will appear as the principle applicant the council will:

Fail to notify you of the result directly, not even spending 50p of your £150 fee to send a copy of the notice they send to your builder. The first you are likely to know of any rejection will be an approach from a company offering to appeal on your behalf.

Use powers they apparently have to enter your property without permission. They will not bother to advise you when inspectors will be in your area and likely to need access to your premises but will just leave them to barge in if you miss the doorbell or are away from home.

Not bother to show you the slightest consideration in softening the blow of rejection by writing to you personally and explaining exactly why a submission has been turned down. They will simply send a bland notice to your builder – notable in itself for a complete absence of any correspondence etiquette such as even a basic ‘Dear Sir’ – that will present only the briefest of technical reasons with little supporting justification.

In my case there were not public objections yet the council claimed that the size of my proposed development would spoil the residential amenities of one of my neighbours and have a detrimental effect on my own property despite it being obviously run down.

Just why only one of the houses next door was affected or what was so unacceptable about adding a second floor to a dilapidated bungalow sited within a line of large two storey houses and commercial premises just wasn’t explained.

The whole process left me feeling completely short-changed both in terms of the consideration my application had received and in the value-for-money my fee had engendered.

I wrote to express my dissatisfaction but it was nearly three months before the council deigned to reply with what came across as a complacent and self-satisfied letter.

It seems that a nasty culture of arrogance has arisen. An imperious and overbearing high-handedness has somehow taken hold in which even the extension of common courtesies to the public at large seems to be beneath the dignity of the council.

Is it therefore any wonder that local government is so wildly disparaged as incompetent and worthless when autocratic council fiefdoms of this kind are allowed to go on unchecked?

R. J. MILLICHAP

Haglands Lane, West Chiltington