Tougher action enforcing breaches of planning rules should be taken by Calderdale Council, the Liberal Democrat group has demanded.
Liberal Democrat leader James Baker told the full meeting of Calderdale Council that a Freedom of Information request had revealed only a tiny proportion of complaints about planning matters resulted in any enforcement action being brought.
It had become an issue concerning many local people with the situation seeming to be akin to being allowed to build “a mansion in a suburban area without planning permission, you can do what you want, you can allow building to go on for years and years disrupting your neighbours, you can erect unsightly walls seven or eight foot – nothing ever seems to happen,” he said.
Coun Baker said the figures revealed that in the past four years the council had received more than 1,800 complaints but had only taken enforcement action on 36 cases – well below the average for councils in England as a whole.
“Will the Cabinet member responsible accept there is an issue with planning enforcement and what are their plans to tackle and improve that service?” he said.
Coun Baker (Warley) said he had asked and discovered that the council did not have information about how long it took for an issue to be resolved.
Cabinet member for Planning, Housing and Environment, Coun Daniel Sutherland (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden), said Coun Baker and the figures he had produced highlighted the scale of the problem.
If the planning enforcement service was adequately resourced there would not be much left in the budget for other matters – it was one of the back office services that did not get attention at budget time but the rest of the year the council relied on it. “It is a frustration,” he said.
Whether it was the resources or legal powers at issue, enforcement was often strung out. Officers often did not have the legal powers to deal with situations and some high profile cases had gone on for years, causing frustration and being unfair on people who did play by the rules.
He agreed the situation had to change and said the council was looking internally at how that could be done.
In addition an enforcement review across all council services was taking place which would also consider the matter.
Previously Coun Baker has said planning rules exist for good reasons and should be followed. The council had to send out a strong message that unauthorised developments and breaches of planning conditions would not be tolerated.