Planning meeting told “The council’s function is not to determine the ownership of the land”

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Bricks - Building

Bedford council has said it won’t get involved in rows over who owns land when planning applications are submitted.

The comment came during a discussion over retrospective planning permission for a double garage and air source heat pump in Odell at a planning committee meeting on Monday (25 April).

According to the architects representing an adjoining owner, ‘deliberately misleading’ was provided by the applicant stating they owned all the land involved.

But the council says paperwork filed by the applicant says he is the sole owner of the land in question – and that “the borough council’s function is not to determine the ownership of the land.”

Ward councillor Alison Foster (Conservative) had requested the plans come before the meeting.

Plans for the double garage had already been approved, this application was for amendments to the original plans.

Christopher Higenbottam, from Tempietto Architects, representing an adjoining owner, said: “This application should be refused due to the deliberately misleading information that’s been provided by the applicant and his agents.

“Despite providing clear evidence to your officers that the garage encroaches on my client’s land, they have inexplicably accepted the assertion of the applicant’s architect who stated in an email that ‘we understand from our client that the land outlined in red on the application represents the land owned by the applicant’.”

Julian Buttel, from the applicant’s agent, David Coles Architects, said the reconstructed stone boundary wall allowed the garage to be set back further than was originally planned.

“This has released space for the air source heat pump to be accommodated within lands that the applicant confirmed is within their ownership,” he said.

Councillor Martin Towler (Conservative, Riseley Ward) asked for clarification should it be found that the heat pump was transgressing someone else’s land.

Paul Lennox, team leader applications team replied: “If we granted permission for it and it later transpired that the applicant didn’t actually own all the land, then that would be a separate matter.

“There could be potential for a [judicial review] against the decision or other legal mechanisms to require the development to be removed from the adjoining owner’s property.”

Councillor James Weir (Conservative, Kempston Rural Ward) asked: “If there was a judgement against the applicant and the decision was overturned, would Bedford Borough be considered to have been culpable?”

David Doorne, legal advisor to the committee, said: “The issue that was raised by Mr Higenbottam was one of the validity of the application, because when a party makes an application for planning permission they file a certificate, either Form A or Form B.

“Form A means they own the whole of the land, and Form B says that they only own parts of the land and that they have notified the other landowners of the application.

“And in this particular case the applicant filed Form A to say that he was the sole owner of the land in question.

“The borough council does not get into an involved consideration as to whether or not that form is correct.

“The borough council’s function is not to determine the ownership of the land.

“Unless there’s an obvious and clear error in the certificate, then the borough council will rely on that certificate.

“Mr Higenbottam wrote to the council to raise his objections on that particular issue.

“The matter was raised with the applicant’s agent who then confirmed that his client did indeed own all of the land within the application site.

“So as far as the borough council is concerned that is the end of the matter, ” he said.

The committee voted to defer the decision for a month and to carry out a site visit.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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