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Why are we so accepting of planning decisions?

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Once every week the Guernsey Press publishes applications made to the Development & Planning Authority. These applications can be for a wide variety of reasons from erecting a wall, transforming a garden to installing new windows or features in a property. These applications are then discussed in meetings by complete strangers who then have the power to approve or reject these applications. This whole process surprises me in two ways: 1. That the general public of Guernsey do not question the methods of this process and just follow the processes that are in place to ask permission from a group of people to make changes to their own property. 2. There is very little published criteria on how applications are accepted or rejected and how the people in charge make these decisions.

I find it absurd how the Guernsey public have to ask States employees for permission to make alterations to property that they own and the fact that Guernsey people just toe the line.

Recently, we have had strong views from the public about education, public spending, traffic and protests yet, to my knowledge, not one person has criticised or made their voice heard about this topic.

I believe the only exception whereby you have to ask permission is if you do not own the property. Other than that, I believe that owners should be able to do what they want to their property, within reason.

For example, if someone wanted to build Guernsey's first skyscraper, then that would be unreasonable. However, if someone wanted to change their windows or build a conservatory, then that would be reasonable.

Equally, I find it difficult to understand how the Guernsey public do not know the exact criteria that results in an accepted or rejected application.

My father wanted to erect a shed in the back garden, but that was rejected. However, our next door neighbour gained permission to build an extension to their house which took over three months to complete. This is not an isolated incident – it is happening all over Guernsey on a regular basis.

Lastly, I had to smile when it was reported in the Guernsey Press recently that a gentleman who made unauthorised modifications to his property was given a £6,000 fine, but the judge made no ruling about the removing the modifications that he made, which presumably means they can stay.

Within a week of this story being reported the Press published letters from contributors lambasting the judge's decision and proclaiming that the judge should have made him change the dwelling back to how it previously was. This story and the aftermath highlights my first point perfectly.

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Now where did I put my application form for Guernsey's first skyscraper?

Name and address withheld.

Editor's footnote: Planning Services responds: Planning in Guernsey is a statutory process under the Land Planning & Development Law. Many minor works do not require planning permission. For other more significant developments, prior planning permission is required under the law.

The process for making a planning application and the way in which applications must be dealt with are set out in the legislation and substantial information about this is available on the Planning & Building section of the States website at www.gov.gg.

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Most planning applications are processed and determined by planning officers under the authority's approved scheme of delegation. Typically, more than 95% of applications are determined under delegated authority. However, in cases which fall outside the delegated powers the applications are referred to the political members of the authority for determination in public at open planning meetings.

The Planning Service has targets for dealing with planning applications. Our current targets for speed of decision-making are:

  • 80% of planning decisions issued within eight weeks
  • 90% of planning decisions issued within 13 weeks

The material planning considerations which must be taken into account when determining planning applications are set out in the legislation and details are published on the States website. All planning decisions and the accompanying reports, which clearly explain the matters that are considered by the authority when taking planning decisions, are published on the website.

The Planning Service and Development & Planning Authority are committed to making planning decisions openly and transparently. Your correspondent's comments about the planning process demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding and are very misleading. Please visit the Planning & Building section of the States website at www.gov.gg for accurate information about the planning process in Guernsey. We would also be happy to answer any queries by email to Planning@gov.gg.

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