It seems that here in Hackney, we are not alone in having an incompetent Council when it comes to mobile phone masts and planning permission. After an effective campaign by local residents, Hackney Council refused permission to O2 to erect a mast on London Fields, just metres away from a primary school, a kids' paddling pool, an estate (Wayman Court) and residential streets. But the Council missed the deadline to notify O2, so it got the permission by default.
According to Mast Sanity, several other Councils have been equally crap, and their misdeeds are listed at the end of this post. Strangely, this hall of shame is not particularly reassuring to Hackney residents - but it does expose just how much local democracy is degraded by Town Hall bureaucrats.
And it makes you think again about Councils paying their Chief Executives £150,000 per year for fear that paying less would cause a 'brain drain'. In 1923, a court ruled that Poplar Borough Council paying its workers £4 per week was illegal, because it was so high as to be considered not 'wages' at all, but 'gratuities disguised as wages'. If that legal ruling still stands, how can they get away with putting a trough full of gold in front of these incompetent snouts?! (Er, that'll be because there's one rule for the rich and one for the rest of us.)
Anyway, here goes ...
- In Tower Hamlets, a refusal notice was sent by second class post the day before the 56-day deadline, and didn't arrive in time. Permission by default.
- Rydedale Council in Yorkshire were similarly a day late in notifying Orange that permission had been refused for a mast near Sheriff Hutton.
- Residents in Williamthorpe Road, Chesterfield were shocked to see construction work begin on a mast they thought had been refused planning permission. Derbyshire District Council had not informed Hutchison 3G of their decision within the 56-day deadline.
- Bournemouth Council sent a letter to Vodafone detailing the objections of the Council's planning committee, but carelessly omitting to mention that they were in fact refusing permission! Vodafone claimed deemed consent for the mast. In direct violation of Council policy, the mast will be placed on land owned by the Council.
- Residents of Wycombe face a battle with O2 after their district council missed the 56-day deadline.
And there is more! The BBC looks at the issue here. Bleating council officials say that the law is wrong, and should not grant permission by default if there is a cock-up. They are probably right, but it's hardly an excuse for not posting a letter in good time, is it?!
Now, if a householder applies for planning permission and the Council does not reply within the deadline, do you get your permission by default? Do you hell. You have to wait. Or else you can write to some government department and probably delay the process even more.
There really is one law for the big corporations, and a completely opposite one for ordinary people.
I suspect the answer lies somewhere in between cock-up and conspiracy - in the area known as "not giving a toss".