Rocklands reports detail inadequacies

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The owners of the site had their retrospective application to make alterations to a building thrown out by councillors in June.

The council commissioned two reports. A report from independent planning expert firm Tezel Bahcheli Ltd stated: ‘The council may consider improving consultation between departments. The submitted documents were broadly acceptable, but did not wholly accord with the standards for planning applications. They contained some inaccuracies. While I do not feel that these resulted in a misrepresentation of the scheme, a higher level of information could have been sought. ‘In his delegated report, the officer did not consider the impact of the proposal on the conservation area. This is a significant omission. It was a reason for refusal in the previous application and there is a statutory duty to pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing a conservation area. The report did not consider land stability. The officer came to a significantly different view from the previous planning officer, but the issues were considered and local plan policies were referenced. It highlights a divergence in the interpretation of planning policy and an inconsistent approach to decision making.’

A caravan site licence compliance audit, carried out by RH Environmental, stated: “There were breaches of the existing conditions that should have been addressed by the licence holders. A landslip has affected the lower part of the site. The stability of this and the surrounding land should be fully assessed by an expert surveyor or civil engineer. The land affected should be subject to remedial works under the direction of an expert,”

Council leader cllr Jeremy Birch said: “This report is thorough, and highlights a number of areas where, clearly, the council could have acted differently. I am determined that we will learn the lessons of ‘Rocklands’, and I have asked that a full report on all of the issues identified by both independent reviews be brought forward to the next Cabinet meeting on December 1. I will want that report’s recommendations to be adopted.

“I have also arranged for a geotechnical survey to be carried out on Ecclesbourne Glen to investigate what might be done to stabilise our land, and what this might cost. This is likely to involve further topographical work, and possibly digging boreholes, to produce a model of what had happened, and what might happen, so that we can evaluate the options. Because of this it is likely to take some time but, again, we will publish this report when received.”