Series following those who make planning decisions. Three national house builders proposing to build over 500 homes in a greenfield site meet severe opposition from locals.
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Britain is a green and pleasant land but for how long?
We're now getting to a situation where any sites
worth putting a planning application in for...
After the biggest shake-up of the planning system in 40 years,
the race is on to get Britain building.
If I have a house here, I'm thinking about building a sort of Berlin Wall.
It's got to be at least six feet high.
So constructors are making plans.
Whoever designed that needs to be shot.
Objectors are making noises.
I've bloody enough of it with what we've got in this town
-for councillors and the load of
-they're putting up.
And neighbours are going to war.
We always won our battles as a family. We'll win this one.
In the firing line, shaping the country of the future
are Britain's planners.
Nothing happens in the hall, yeah? No, yes, no, yes?
Thank you for letting us visit and we'll see you on Thursday.
Another British planning cock-up, really.
Across the country, planning regulations are being relaxed
to encourage construction.
The government wants building to kick-start the economy, so land
that was previously protected is now being considered for development.
In West Cheshire, the council has a target of 5,000 new homes
in the next five years.
Fiona Edwards is the head planner.
We're not boring, we're really exciting people.
My team and I, we love our jobs, we like the difference
we can make to developments. We like hopefully making things better.
I think it's probably the most exciting time to be a planner.
Today, Fiona is in Winsford, considering an application
to build on farmland.
My goodness, hang on!
This is obviously where people walk their dogs
and they're not particularly considerate about it.
Three developers want to build 540 houses on the edge of the town.
This has always been farmland, it's always been green open land.
A lot of people would say we shouldn't be losing it,
that we should protect this at all costs
but I suppose the question you ask yourself as a planner -
in the drive to meet with the government's targets,
where do we put all these sites?
Changes in the law mean even farmland can be built on
if it's near enough to existing communities.
I think without a doubt it's going to be controversial.
You only have to have a look at the size of it -
there's a lot of land here, and these properties in particular,
they've had open aspect views over farmland,
some of those properties for possibly 100 years.
People are very protective of their views and their landscape.
Hello. Grab a seat!
A big thanks to you all for turning up
on a glorious evening tonight. I'm sure there's lots of other things
you could be doing on a lovely hot evening.
When news of the application was made public,
an action group was formed to fight any development.
I used to play in these fields. We used to make dens out of the hay.
You know, the animals.
I just had such a happy childhood being in this area.
Sandra lives with her son in a house overlooking
the site of the proposed development.
That was my bedroom as a child.
I've always had that view of those fields all of my life.
Sandra's not alone.
Eight members of her family live on the same road.
I've been here about 40 years.
-It's more than that, Dad.
-It might be.
-Maybe 50 years.
I'm just sad that they might end up looking at houses.
They've chosen to live here because it was quiet,
it's beautiful countryside.
I've got to do it, I've got to do it for them.
Your home, your front door
is probably the most important thing to you and if that's threatened,
people get very, very emotionally bound up in the whole process
and it can be something as simple
as your neighbours having a conservatory,
or something as controversial as putting 540 houses
on greenfield sites like this.
Sandra and her neighbours need strong planning reasons
to get the houses refused,
and start by focusing on the loss of wildlife habitats.
The developers actually say they want to create natural habitats,
but they'll just disappear.
I saw a barn owl down here on Friday night.
They're rare, they're thin on the ground.
I've been in the countryside and worked in farming all my life
and I've only seen about six barn owls.
Some of this wildlife could be ancestors go back hundreds of years.
You wouldn't like to be kicked out of your house, would you?
Great crested newts are rumoured to live in the pond,
and they're protected under planning law.
Developers face fines of up to £5,000
if they damage a newt's habitat,
but the objectors need to find evidence that they're present.
Mathew's found something.
They live in that, that's dragonfly larvae.
It's alive with animals, pond life etc,
so if they're in there, the newts are going to be in there somewhere.
It's come this way.
That was a baby newt, whether it was a crested newt...
Where the hell's he gone?
It is interesting when you see people's reactions
when they find out about a planning application behind their house.
They never voice or articulate
"I don't want a house being built behind me."
They always say things like "There must be great crested newts here."
People come up with all sorts of ideas
that you would never think of in a month of Sundays.
Everybody suddenly becomes a planning expert.
They want my job and think they can do it a lot better than I can.
Maybe they can, you never know.
See, he could be in here. He could have gone in them roots.
But if the newts do live in the pond,
they're keeping a frustratingly low profile.
Just bringing it round now.
Wildlife's a funny thing, aren't they?
That's why they're wild cos they know we're here,
cos they can hear us talking so they could be hiding
in the shallows, round the corner, anywhere.
The objectors have another card up their sleeve - archaeology.
We're not powerful enough. We can't fight in the courts
with their banks of lawyers and barrister,
with their millions of pounds. We're just ordinary people
who have got a little voice and we're trying to...
Yes, clutching at straws trying to find some reason to hold them up.
That's a spindle whorl - it could be of archaeological interest.
With no sign of newts or anything of archaeological significance,
Sandra and the objectors have eight weeks to find something else
if they're going to stop the housing plans.
New development doesn't have to be on a grand scale
to upset the neighbours.
Sometimes the smallest changes can cause the greatest upset.
In Cheltenham, this 1930s semi is home to 87-year-old Mary Yeates.
This room is really like its own little world.
I just condensed everything into this room.
I've got my music centre, I've got my television.
It really is my own little muck heap then
if you'd like to put it like that.
Mary has mobility problems so spends all of her time in her back room,
only leaving her favourite armchair once a week to go shopping.
I tell you what really does get my goat,
that's Prime Minister's Question Times.
I keep a collection of socks rolled up here
that I throw at the television.
Well, you've got to get your own back somehow, haven't you?
But Mary's world may be about to change.
Her neighbours have applied for planning permission
to build an extension four metres long and 3.7 metres high
at the back of their house.
Mary is objecting.
See how light it is here now?
This is what it's going to be like if that wall goes up.
And straight away you're in the dark.
That's a big difference. There's no way I could read or anything.
The size of the extension means planning permission is needed.
That means Mary can formally object.
I was a bit concerned about the overall height and the relationship
it will have on this window and this quite small room.
So now it's down to Cheltenham's chief planner, Rob Lindsey,
and planning officer Rachel Adams to decide if construction can go ahead.
I am more than willing to go and look at the site and judge it.
We're here to balance the interests
between the person who wants to build and the person alongside.
It's important to try and make the right decision.
That man's mowing. They must have a game tonight.
If the extension causes too much loss of light,
then the application could be rejected.
-He's rolling the wicket.
-What is it, Friday?
Mary's daughter Pauline and her husband think they've come up
with a way to convince the planners that the extension is too big.
I made a frame up to hover up there roughly to the height
so as we can see when the council planning officer comes round,
how much light we'll lose in the dining room.
Rachel has already carried out light tests which suggest
the shadow would be acceptable.
Rob has agreed to provide a second opinion on-site.
Morning. I'm Robert Lindsey from the planning office, hello.
-Your hands are cold.
-They are, aren't they!
It's quite a cold day actually. Right, you know why we're here,
we're judging the effect of that extension on the light.
Mary and her family are hoping the mock-up will sway Rob.
Can I just come and sit or kneel next door to you
so that I can look at it from your perspective? Thanks.
I think, I'm sorry to say, that my view is that is not something
we could recommend refusal for.
I feel that the impact on your room isn't enough for us to refuse it.
It's very helpful having your full-scale mock up there
but you've got a curved window
which is actually admitting a lot of light. You will lose some light.
Yes, that's what we're saying.
They do prefer to have a pitched roof.
They're going to have light into their dining room
but Mother is going to lose her light in here.
You know, it's all right for them to have their light
but we can't have ours.
-I think it's a whitewash. I do.
-I can assure you it isn't.
I've got very little time for Cheltenham Planning or Tewkesbury Planning.
OK, but the reason we are here is to make a sensible judgement,
-not to whitewash it.
-As far as I'm concerned, that is a whitewash.
We're here to understand the issues.
If you allow something like that, it's disgusting.
It just seems a bit unfair.
I accept that you...feel that, yes.
I do feel quite angry about it and even more so now than I did before.
In over 90% of cases, the planners would make the final decision,
but in this case, Rob and Rachel will only recommend.
In the face of such strong feeling, Rob has decided
that the application will be determined by the elected members
of the council's planning committee when they meet in two weeks' time.
See you on the 17th. Bye.
Rob's been a planner for 38 years.
He's met his fair share of angry neighbours.
People do get emotional
and they get upset about change that they can't control.
So being caught in the middle is part of the stock in trade
of a planning officer.
My first boss used to say, in parties,
that he was a local manager for Berni Inns,
which always struck me as quite inventive.
Conservation areas like Pittville in Cheltenham,
where properties often change hands for over a million,
have particularly strict planning rules to preserve their historic character.
I very much like living here.
It's an ideal mix for me of town and country living
and I love my house. We spent a lot of time and money renovating it.
Geraldine Beaty owns a Human Resources firm.
Her Regency five-bedroom semi may have just undergone
a £200,000 restoration, but to her, it's not quite perfect.
You'll see how many manoeuvres I have to make.
It's not a three-point turn. It's about a seven-point turn.
And this is what I have to do at least twice a day, every single day.
Where our two cars are currently parked
is actually what should be our back garden.
And it's the most sunny part of the garden as well.
It's the south-facing bit which is added frustration.
Tired of having to park in her back garden,
Geraldine set about finding a solution to her problem.
She didn't have to look very far.
All of these houses in front of us have multiple car parking in front.
They all reverse onto the road, they don't have any restrictions
in terms of what they do and how many cars they have or anything.
Geraldine has asked for permission from the council
to have the kerb dropped so she can create a parking space
to the side of the house, just like her neighbours.
She has gone to great lengths to make sure
the planning application is watertight.
We've employed highways consultants,
we've employed tree specialists to draw up a plan
that is going to be amenable to those who make the decisions.
It's cost us a lot of money. Probably already about £10,000.
It's an awful lot of money for a parking space
but it's better than moving house.
The frustrations of the current arrangements are such that if
we didn't get this through, we may probably consider moving house.
The planners handling the application are about to make a site visit.
As the house is in a conservation area, planner Martin Chandler
has to consult conservation officer Karen Radford.
Very nice pair of houses.
Good condition, good location,
with a view from over there sort of looking northwards.
That is quite a prominent location.
The kerb will be coming in just to the right of this tree.
The tree will come out and the kerb will run approximately to here.
The proposal would mean losing the front garden
and the original layout of the grounds.
I think this front garden
and the way it is at the moment really is very nice.
That will all be lost to hard standing
because of the turning space that is necessary.
Cheltenham has clear guidelines on what is
and isn't allowed in a conservation area.
Loss of front garden to parking, detracts from historic setting.
Yes, which is clearly what is proposed here.
The Planning Listed Building And Conservation Area Act of 1990
says that the planning authority has the duty to consider it
so that the conservation area is preserved and enhanced
and I can't see how this application
will be preserving and enhancing the conservation area at all.
I just don't see it.
Some properties in the road may have got planning permission
for dropped kerb, some properties in the road may
historically already have a dropped kerb because they were designed
to have a horse and carriage going in, therefore a car can go in.
Just because everybody else has,
that's not a way that planning policy is determined.
With planning policy, each application and each situation
needs to be looked at on its merits.
Conservation officer Karen is against the dropped kerb,
so planner Martin is recommending that it be refused.
Despite the recommendation, Geraldine is determined to continue
with the application, with the help of another planning consultant.
It seems that the wall may be a bit of an issue
as you picked up on as well.
If they're concerned about demolition
then we need to tweak that accordingly.
OK, tweak it in the sense of what?
They've asked their ward councillor to take the application
before the planning committee,
where elected members will decide on her dropped kerb.
A dropped kerb. It is farcical, laughable,
ridiculous. Any other adjective you can think of, all of those.
Now the application is going before the councillors,
the conservation officer's objections could be overruled.
In Winsford in Cheshire, Sandra Challinor and her neighbours
have changed tactics in their efforts to get plans
for 540 houses rejected.
They're queuing up here in the morning trying to get out
but at the moment it's really quiet because it's the holiday time.
More houses means more cars.
The objectors are making a video to show their roads
are already very busy.
It will be absolute chaos - you're going to have potentially
another 1,000 cars coming on the roads, from two entrances.
-It's going to be even worse.
In any application involving changes to the highways,
the planners will always send out their own traffic experts.
People perceive 540 dwellings
as creating, you know, potentially everybody's got two cars
so that could be 800 or 1,000 car movements every day.
In reality, that doesn't happen.
There will be some impact, but I think that in most instances,
for most of the residents, it would be an insignificant and hardly noticeable impact.
-Good to see you again.
-Good to see you as well.
Ken's meeting the objectors to explain the work he's done
to make sure the new road layouts are safe and reduce disruption.
Could I ask about the access here? Because that's right in front
of these houses here - is that going to stay the same?
It is, yeah.
It doesn't matter where they put it, it's going to upset somebody,
to a degree. Believe it or not, some people like new accesses
because it shows them a bit of life outside their lounge window
and I've had that said to me before. I'm not saying that
here that would be the case. You can't please everybody all the time,
we just aim to please as many people as we can.
-OK, thank you.
-Thank you very much.
Thank you very much.
It is good to talk, as...
Who was it? British Rail once said, "we're getting there".
Despite Ken's positive spin, Sandra's determined to fight on.
I still don't want it to happen, even hearing today
the highway planning officer Ken...
In my heart I don't want it to happen.
A peaceful, quiet place is going to be turned into hectic,
because there's going to be another 6 or 700 cars on the road,
so it's going to affect everybody round here.
With specialist reports all supporting the scheme,
head planner Fiona has reached a recommendation.
The recommendation on these is for approval.
Three applications, 540 houses.
It ticks the boxes - they're sustainable locations
on the edge of the settlement, they are near to existing services,
you know, shops, schools, medical facilities
so it's an ideal area to grow -
it complies with national policy. No reason to refuse it.
On large-scale applications with local opposition,
Fiona can only recommend.
The decision will be made by the elected councillors who make up
the planning committee.
They have the power to go against officer advice.
For the next few years, Mrs Driver would prove to be
what some call "the Iron Lady of Cheltenham".
Barbara Driver is a long-standing member of Cheltenham's
I am known for saying what I think.
Long may I carry on,
because in planning I've got to get my two cents in
and stop them doing it.
Barbara is one of 15 councillors on the planning committee.
They have the power to overrule
a professional planning officer's recommendations.
We are elected onto the council to represent those people
that elected us.
The officer's job is the legal end and the business end
and everything else.
And we need to just get together on it.
Barbara, is it a bit of a battle sometimes between you
-and the officers? You seem to have...
-Well, no, no. Don't think...
Before voting on any application,
the committee visits every site with the planners.
Today they're visiting the home of Mary Yeates.
They need to decide on next door's extension plans.
Hello. We're going into one of the semi-detached properties.
They're concerned that they're going to lose their amenity
because of the extension.
It does pass the daylight test and officers have stood in the room
and feel that it's not going to be overbearing to their amenity,
which is why the recommendation is to approve.
OK, so from this side this is the elevation,
which the neighbour will see.
The neighbour has concerns that it's going to be overbearing
to their living room. Officers believe that it won't,
which is what members will have to decide at committee.
I'll tell you what really does get my goat.
The planning committee are councillors.
I doubt if there's a builder or an architect, even a good DIY chap.
I don't suppose there's one on that committee.
-The shrubbery behind it? Will that have to go?
-That would have to go.
And you say it can't be lowered at all?
Not for the roof tile.
We have asked for a different roof form and for the pumps for the extension to be
stepped back so that they can reduce the pitch,
but the applicant is unable to do that.
The councillors' vote in three weeks' time will determine
-whether the extension will be built.
But Mary and her family aren't confident.
The one gentleman said,
"Is the greenery going to stay there on the fence?"
Well, looking at the drawings, any idiot can see that that's got to go
and it's going to be a wall there.
'Half of them people, what do they know about it?'
They've never been in the building trade.
-They go round on a jolly and they haven't got a
This is what you've got with the planning committee.
-A load of
The councillors come from all walks of life, from watchmaker
to a retired policeman, but they do receive some training
in planning law when they join the committee.
It's something that I will be discussing with planning
on Thursday, because I do have some questions that need to be answered
at the planning meeting.
-But you can't talk about them now?
-No, I'd rather not, thank you.
Planners don't just have to balance the conflicting views
of home owners - they also have to consider
the need for sustainable, energy-saving development.
We have a house that's lovely to live in.
To live in the centre of Chester really has its pleasantries as well.
Retired GPs Basil and Rachel Thompson spent £250,000
restoring their home by the city walls in Chester.
There's room for their grandchildren and their hobbies.
Now, isn't that nice?
But there's one further improvement they'd like to make
to their Grade II-listed home.
There's an awful lot of sunlight falls
and we're not using it.
We want to put 17 solar panels on this roof.
Let's take 17 small strides.
One, two, three...
The Thompsons have applied for planning permission
to install solar panels, which will cost them £8,500.
Here, if we use the central part, it will go from here
to the other side of that window.
They'll only see a return on their investment in 12 years,
when they're both 95.
We don't need it - we're relatively well-off,
we're not complaining about our electricity bills,
which are somewhere in the order of 2,500 a year.
But we feel very strongly that
whatever we can do to cut down unsustainable energy
is our obligation for future generations.
We've got the money sitting there waiting to pay for it
and we're lucky on that.
But as they live within the city's conservation area,
they have to wait for the planners' approval before doing anything
to the traditional slate roof.
It's a listed building
and our garage roof is very much in view
of anybody walking along the walls,
but quite honestly, I think that anybody leaning over our wall
will look at the garden rather than worry about the solar panels.
Who are we going to upset by putting a row of solar panels on the roof?
The man responsible for preserving the historic appearance
of the city is conservation officer John Healey.
It's not a static city, it's a city that moves forward and our job is
to ensure that it moves forward in a way which is informed by the past.
There's no denying the fact that this is an incredibly
sensitive location. There are constraints.
Together with case officer Dan Nickson, John has come
to visit Basil and Rachel to let them know whether or not
they will be recommending approval for their solar panels.
-Is our doorbell not working?
-I did try it.
OK. No energy.
We have been assessing it and we are looking to refuse the application.
It's very visible from the city walls.
Chester City Walls dates back to the time of the Roman occupation.
It is one of the primary tourist draws into the town.
It would have a significant impact on the appearance of the property
and particularly on the appearance of the slate roof.
You'd be concealing the slate roof
with large modular reflective panels.
Then if we just turn a moment, sorry, and just look at the building
that is behind - that looks just like a panel there.
Nothing but panels and you permitted that one.
But I can't answer for the sins of those who were here
in the '70s, can I, really?
We feel very strongly
that you're ignoring the...
We have to be mindful that granting a permission in this circumstance
here perhaps suggests that others might successfully also apply
-for similar sorts of developments elsewhere.
It's like saying that one can't have electricity, one can't have
modern things that are appropriate to conserving the here
and thereafter for our families and next generations.
I honestly think that solar panellings are going to be just
as acceptable in ten years' time as the bicycle
and a whole lot of other modern technology.
I don't think we were saying no solar panels.
What I think we were saying was solar panels where
they were appropriately located.
But for heaven's sake, not on elevations directly fronting
the city wall on listed buildings.
John's opposition means the planners are rejecting the application.
But Rachel and Basil have lobbied their councillor
and it'll now go to the planning committee.
But John is confident the case is straightforward.
The planning system is one that's based on balancing up various
I have to say, when we have favourable decisions,
I have a slight smile on my face.
If they turn it down at committee, we'd certainly go to appeal.
I've even said that I would happily go down
and try and talk to the government official in charge
of renewable energies.
She's a bit of a terrier. If her teeth are into something,
she is very willing to pursue it to the ultimate, if necessary.
And if you think that's right, yes.
It's not in my nature to accept something that I feel
In Cheltenham, Geraldine Beaty has also had her planning application
recommended for refusal by the conservation officer.
I have scraped my car more than once doing this.
Just because I can't have parking at the front of my house.
Geraldine wants permission to create a parking space.
Since the conservation officer's report, she's lobbied
her local councillor and now the final decision will go before
Cheltenham's planning committee, who are on their way to her house.
It's a sort of mystery tour.
All will be revealed.
It's just this house up on the right here. That house there.
As you're aware, there is a policy in the plan
which talks about resisting introduction of hard-standing
and parked cars to the front of houses in conservation areas.
And in this instance the recommendation is to refuse.
On your recommendation, how does that fit in with the other side
of the road where there are numerous dropped kerbs?
And the next door neighbour.
Yes, along Albert Road there are numerous examples of dropped kerbs.
Again, the old adage -
there's no such thing as a precedent in planning.
Every case has its different merits.
The conservation officer has objected,
as the historic front garden would be lost,
along with the railings and the dividing wall.
That's the objection. if you remove that, you lose
that historic sub-division, if you like.
The wall and the green. And the railings, you name it.
When on site, to prevent lobbying,
the applicant is not allowed to speak to the councillors,
a rule which committee member Barbara is keen to enforce.
-We're just going to move it back...
-No, you can't talk to us, sorry.
-Sorry, I'm paying for this application. Don't be so unpleasant.
The view isn't... What...
We are told that we can't get into conversation with an applicant
when we're on planning view, and I was trying to warn the lady
that she couldn't do it but she got her knickers in a twist.
But... SHE LAUGHS
Yeah, I apologise for the outburst, that was a bit... Wasn't...
put in the best way, perhaps.
I'm afraid it's not my ruling, it's the council's ruling.
They spoke to me, but I'm not allowed to speak to them.
That's just bizarre behaviour,
it's primitive and not very helpful at all.
I find it, honestly, really upsetting.
I've tried so hard to put this through
and then for some woman who doesn't have any interest at all.
-Well, an interest as a councillor, obviously.
-I'm finding it quite stressful.
-Well, thank you for letting us visit.
-And we'll see you on Thursday.
The councillors will meet again
at the council offices in three days' time
to decide on the fate of Geraldine's £10,000 application.
I've probably not helped the case at all by saying to her,
"Well, I'm paying for this, so why can't I speak?"
It just seems an old-fashioned weird way of behaving,
like I'm supposed to be grateful to them.
We'll see. I suspect it's going to get turned down now.
In Winsford, Cheshire, Sandra Challinor and her neighbours
have heard the news that the planning department
are in favour of building a housing estate opposite their homes.
it's depressing to just see this word "approved" to go forward,
so obviously we're just going to fight to the end now and keep going.
They've lost the planning argument but they're leafleting every house
in the area. A large turnout at the committee meeting
could sway the councillors and get the housing scheme turned down.
We just want the people to come along
to show the councillors there's a lot of concern
about the building of houses, not just here but also in other parts
of this county, and I'm afraid in the other parts of the country.
I do understand why they get upset, but it's my job to try and balance
those emotions against what people do need at the end of the day,
which is good-quality homes to live in.
I'd love to be confident, but at the moment the case officer has
recommended it for approval. No, I can't be confident at the moment,
We've just got to try and persuade them on the day, I suppose.
It's my job to promote development in the right places.
I don't want to see the whole of Britain built on.
I'm a country girl at heart.
You've got to be realistic, you want it to be rejected,
that's really why we're fighting this campaign, we want it stopped.
The elected councillors,
who will decide the fate of Winsford's fields,
must balance officers' advice with the feelings of their constituents.
I think people do realise it's a commitment
and you've got to be heart-wrenching at times.
I'm making a major decision,
yes, because it's going to sometimes affect a lot of people.
Norman is a retired farmer, so knows how vulnerable farmland is
to development since the laws changed.
When I sold my land, I've got 50 years conditions on it
so they can't build on it.
These fields in Winsford have no such protection.
Norman and the other councillors are being shown the site
of the proposed housing development by the planning officers.
I'm used to wearing inappropriate site shoes - I'm a girl.
The people who object to it, are they people who are going to have
their view ruined or have they got a more strategic view of this?
We've had a number of objections. I couldn't tell you exactly which
houses they're from - they are generally local residents.
As they're elected every four years,
councillors are under pressure to listen to their constituents.
They will listen to what we as professional officers put forward
as a recommendation. They'll also listen to the applicants
putting forward their cases and the objectors or supporters
on the parish council.
So they weigh up all those things in the balance
and they represent true democracy.
Look at the situation. It's a beautiful site
for agricultural land, isn't it?
Nicely ploughed, actually. Whoever has ploughed that,
it's quite good. As an expert, couldn't do it better myself.
Is that a factor for you to consider?
It's sad, as a farmer, to see it go, perhaps,
but we've got to make way
for new houses, perhaps.
I'm still waiting for the debate on the situation.
In Cheltenham, Mary Yeates' objection to her neighbour's extension
is about to be decided by the planning committee.
They meet every month in the main council chamber.
It looks very official, which it is, anyway.
A lot of people all sitting around listening to your every word.
It's almost like a courtroom.
To a lot of people it's frightening.
During the debate, Mary's daughter, Pauline,
will have a chance to convince the councillors to refuse permission.
Decided that we'll keep it short, sweet, to the point,
This is the opportunity for the two parties
to give their opinion on the application.
We've got the neighbour speaking and the applicant speaking,
so we're going to hear from both parties.
Thank you, members. We now move on to the applications.
The planners have recommended approval for the single-storey extension,
but Pauline thinks her mum back home
will suffer from a loss of light if construction goes ahead.
First, Mrs Pauline Cox.
Our main objection to the extension is the height
and the size of the extension.
If the height of the building was lowered,
then we would have less objection to it than we do with it in its present state.
That's all I've got to say, thank you.
Thank you very much, Mrs Cox.
I now ask Mr Duncan Philpotts to speak.
Good evening, everyone.
The applicant has now the chance to address Pauline's objection.
We have looked into reducing the height of the extension
as much as possible.
My understanding is, the planning application we've put in
passes the daylight test, so any points on daylight
shouldn't have any bearing on the planning decision. Thank you.
After hearing from both sides,
there's a chance for the councillors to debate,
but instead they go straight to the vote.
Right, we now go to the vote.
The recommendation is to approve.
All those in favour?
That is approved.
Planning permission has been granted for the extension,
despite Pauline and David's efforts.
I've had bloody enough of it, with what we've got in this town for councillors
-and the load of
-they're putting up.
Barbara has been the only councillor to vote against the extension.
I voted against it for the next-door neighbour
because although it didn't take away the light,
it was very oppressive to her lounge windows
and it's the only window she had there in that little lounge.
The law is it has to take away the light
but sometimes I think we've got to think
a little bit outside the box, not just planning rules and everything else.
A little bit of common sense for the neighbours I think, personally, comes into it.
In Chester, Rachel and Basil Thompson
are hoping to have more luck in front of THEIR planning committee.
Their plans to put solar panels on the roof of their listed home
have been rejected by the officers,
but they've lobbied their local councillor
and now committee will have its say.
I feel it's a battle that...
It was no use trying to fight it ten years ago,
but attitudes have changed
and it is necessary to explore every form of green energy.
The councillors are visiting to see what impact the panels would have
on the views from the city walls.
The conservation officer has been consulted on the application
and considers that the harm is so significant here
because of its location, in terms of its proximity to the walls,
the listed building,
that it outweighs the benefits from delivering
additional renewable energy from the solar panels.
As you walk down the walls, it is particularly prominent.
You only get... You know, you get, obviously, a section of a view here
but you can see it from some distance going both ways.
It's a pity we can't get Roman-style solar panels, isn't it?
Well, you can get photovoltaic tiles
that are like slate look...slate appearance rather than solar panels,
but there's a cost element to that.
-Are you guys...? Can you see?
-Seen it. Shall we go?
The application has taken Rachel and Basil three months to prepare.
The committee members have the power to override
the recommendations of the officers.
One speaker on this... Rachel Thompson.
Each local authority has different rules on addressing the committee.
Rachel is allowed three minutes.
The solar panels which we are proposing are slick, slimline
and low profile
and would cover less than half of the lower part of the slate roof.
I fail to agree that the sight of solar panels would be an eyesore.
With a recommendation to refuse planning permission,
the councillors start the debate.
I think that people walking along the city walls will say,
"Yes, it is a pretty old building and it looks very nice
"and how forward-thinking of the people to have solar panels on it."
We can't stop the march of time
and this is now what people are putting on the roofs of their houses
to actually make the whole of the world more sustainable.
Sometimes the conservation officer is wrong
and in this case he is.
It's finally time for the vote.
All those in favour?
The council have dismissed the recommendation
and it's a unanimous yes for Rachel and Basil's solar panels.
I can't believe it. It's just...
Well beyond belief.
I'm... I'm thrilled.
And...they are right.
I'm sure they're right.
I was quite sure it would just be thrown out like that,
and the thought of going to appeal, oh, dear.
We reckon we need to live another ten years to get anything back!
I should think we'll be long gone.
In Cheltenham, the planning committee is also about to vote
on changes to a listed building.
Geraldine Beaty is about to find out
if all her money spent on consultants
is enough to buy her a parking space outside her Georgian home.
We've got four bodies of expert input that we've paid for
to put together the best possible proposal
and, at best, my advisor is says it's 50/50.
Even though every other house in the street has a dropped kerb,
the conservation officer opposes the application,
saying it would destroy the original garden layout.
Councillors may see things differently.
I want it to be refused - that's my recommendation.
But they are the ones who will make the decision.
Geraldine has brought her husband along for support.
But she won't be speaking. She's got a consultant to do that.
All the properties fronting onto Albert Road, a total of 16,
have vehicular access to the front.
The precedent set by this is therefore very significant
and the impact of one more property,
the final one in the immediate locality,
having vehicular access to the front
would not harm the conservation area.
The councillors must now debate the application.
The first signs are good for Geraldine.
Every house there has got access to a driveway from the road.
I-I... I think...
bordering on churlish to not approve this application.
But next to talk is Barbara,
who clashed with Geraldine on the site visit.
This house has got plenty of room at the back for the parking.
They could even move the entrance way further down
and make it larger if they wished, if they're having trouble.
There is no need to change the front.
I shall vote to refuse.
With a split of opinion in the committee,
it's time for the Cheltenham councillors to vote.
All those in favour of approval?
Those against approval?
That is seven.
It is refused.
£10,000 the poorer,
Geraldine and her husband will still have to park at the back.
The planners have had their way.
And so has Barbara.
I don't vote on things on whether I like somebody or don't like somebody,
or, indeed, do I know them.
I vote on the issues that are there.
What do we do now?
I think we sleep on it, to be honest.
SHE SIGHS It's so very frustrating.
We will have to sleep on it. We really will have to sleep on it.
After further consultation with her team of planning experts,
Geraldine decided to take her kerb to appeal.
In Chester City, there's a shiny new addition to the town's historic roofline.
-We had a leak.
Well, we weren't sure whether it was a leak or the dog.
Rachel and Basil Thompson are clearing up
after the installation of their new, high-tech, energy-saving solar panels.
This is an electric machine which...
Oh, golly. It takes the...
-the solar light...
-That comes in...
..and makes it into electricity.
-That comes in...
-More than that I really don't know.
It comes in as DC and it's converted to AC,
but why "inversion" I don't know.
Rachel and Basil may be struggling to get to grips with the latest technology,
but conservation officer John Healey
is struggling to reconcile the old with the new.
They just look, in my view, utterly alien,
in the core of this historic city
and I do worry that we might see
other similar sorts of installations
on historic buildings ultimately to the detriment
of the overall character and integrity of the city.
It just looks like a roof with stripes on.
I think they look fantastic.
-I'm not used to it yet.
I rest my case for the moment.
I don't think you can take it personally.
Ultimately, the decision is with members.
The members have taken this decision.
Hopefully, you know,
they might, perhaps, be able to take a look at this
and reconsider whether it was indeed the best decision to have taken.
You don't think it was?
Shall we just cut that one?
Some decisions by planning committees
have the power to transform the landscape forever.
The push to get Britain building means those changes
are affecting land that was always considered protected.
In Winsford in Cheshire,
councillors are being asked to throw out plans
to build 540 new homes on farmland.
So we just thought we'd meet them with our signs,
ready and waiting.
You can't give an opinion at this stage, can you?
Certainly cannot. You're dead right there.
-Cos our minds have to be open
until we've all heard everything, don't we? Yes.
Head planner Fiona is recommending the scheme be approved.
I wouldn't be a councillor because you are inevitably
going to be the bad boy somewhere along the line.
They may come to a different decision to the recommendation that we give them
because you could argue that they are the eyes and ears of the local people.
Quite often they'll go against what I say.
Everybody's entitled to their own opinion, even if it's wrong.
540 houses would be built by three separate developers.
The objectors need to persuade the councillors
to go against professional planning advice.
These planning applications are not about developing Winsford,
they're about maximising the profit for the developer.
We, as residents, council tax payers
and voters, are not interested in maximising developers' profits.
We are simply looking for the right development in the right area of Winsford
and this application simply isn't right for Winsford.
With government policy encouraging new houses,
the developers are in a strong position.
Housing is needed and it's needed nationally
and some of the land that is required will have to be on greenfield land.
Now, this is a good site because it's in Winsford,
and Winsford is a key settlement for the delivery of homes.
The development is sustainable.
There'll be longer-term benefits to the local economy.
In addition, it's not widely visible,
so it will have a limited impact on the landscape.
Sandra and her fellow objectors must listen
as the committee discuss the application.
The application is a very large one.
These 600 houses could be imposed on this lovely town of Winsford.
That is too big a level of massing
in one beautiful area.
I shall be voting against this application this evening.
Although they have the power to throw the plans out,
if the developers appeal and are successful,
the council could be forced to pay thousands in legal costs.
It is extremely difficult.
On the one hand, we have sympathy with the residents
on the overdevelopment issues,
and yet, on the other hand, we are up against it over this five-year plan.
We may have every sympathy with the residents of Winsford
but our hands are tied, Chairman.
As I understand it, Winsford is still growing
and it's still in need of affordable housing within the area.
I think this is something that is going to be good for Winsford
and I hope it's going to be good for the residents of Winsford as well
and I would like to move approval.
The three applications will be voted on separately.
So, all those in favour, please show.
The first vote on 120 of the houses goes overwhelmingly with the recommendation to approve.
All those in favour, please show.
And the other two for the remaining 420 houses go the same way.
Clearly, the recommendation is approved.
After a nine-month campaign,
Sandra and her neighbours have lost their open views.
It's just disappointing. It's just disappointing that
you want to do your best by everybody and...
You just feel as if you've let people down, but, you know...
It's bigger than... It's bigger than one person, isn't it?
It's... You know, it's a bigger fight.
There were clearly a lot of very, very disappointed residents
and they feel probably betrayed by the committee decision
but, nevertheless, it's the decision that I think is the right one.
I would have thought that if we'd have refused them,
they'd have gone to appeal on all of them
and they'd have probably won.
This is a trend that's going to continue for months
and possibly some years to come.
So, interesting times.
Next time on The Planners...
The messiest garden in living memory...
I've been in the building trade now
for 38, no, 40...
50? Bloody hell, how many years?
An enforcement officer comes across the unthinkable -
I might write to the Queen anyway for the OBE.
-You don't believe me, do you?
And news of a modern housing development
leads to insurrection, Cotswolds style.
I'll take the wine!
You don't stop fighting, you keep going to the last breath.
The Lemon Field's just one of many fields.
Documentary series lifting the lid on the decisions behind planning approvals and refusals, telling the story through the eyes, ears and drawings of the planners themselves. These are the people who interpret the rules, evaluate the proposals and make the recommendations, making homeowners' dreams come true or bringing them crashing down.
In this episode, three national house builders target a greenfield site outside Winsford in Cheshire. They are proposing to build 540 new homes in the area but the locals are not happy and will stop at nothing to derail the development. A Cheltenham couple erect a mock-up of their neighbour's extension to highlight their concerns to planners. A retired couple that lives in a conservation area in the heart of Chester submit a planning application to erect 17 solar panels onto their garage roof and a Cheltenham resident spends over £10,000 on her planning application for a dropped kerb outside her home.