Residents who were horrified when work started on a five-storey block metres away from their homes without their knowledge say they are going to take the council to the ombudsman.
A council policy not to consult neighbouring blocks of flats with more than 15 people living in them meant the only notification was a site notice, which as it was placed away from the front of their flats was not spotted by many of them.
However, the council has rejected their complaint, saying that correct policy was followed, and objections had been received to an earlier application – and so they are now taking their case to the local government ombudsman.
However, council policy has now been amended to ensure future notifications are placed as near as possible to neighbouring building’s front doors.
Resident Michael Nelson said: “As expected the council says nothing was done wrong.
“It says all future notifications are to be placed nearest to the building doors – although they did admit they didn’t know there was an entrance on our street.”
“It’s contradictory and not taking any responsibility at best. We hope to get the ombudsman to find insufficient notice was given and as no light levels were taken into account when granting planning permission, to get it revoked and only allow him a maximum of three floors, not five.
“The building work stopped while the complaint took place but has resumed on the day we received the letter.
“How can the council arbitrarily push through development with obscure procedures?”
The letter from the council rejecting the complaint says correct policy was followed, and also says that even were the residents’ objections lodged, they would not have had an impact on permission being granted.
Complaints officer Kate Welch said: “Given that the location of notices was near to the site to which the application related and that objections were received from residents of the Ebenezer Apartments and Ivory Place I am satisfied that the location of the site notices were reasonable.
“Notwithstanding this I have asked for an amendment to be made to the planning team’s working practices that for notification of blocks of flats with more than 15 units the site notice should always be placed as close as possible to the main entrance to the building and that officers should confirm how many entrances there are and where the locations of those entrances are to ensure that notices are placed in a location which is most easily visible to residents.”
Council policy states that residents of neighbouringblocks with 15 or more flats are only consulted over major developments, which must be more than nine homes on a site of more than half a hectare for residential, or more than a hectare for non-residential.
In contrast, 351 students living in Abacus accommodation above the London Road Co-op were individually consulted over Wetherspoon’s application to open a pub there, as they are resident in the same block.