CALLS are being made to urgently upgrade planning enforcement powers, as serious concerns are raised over commercial and residential development across the area.
Speaking at an Adur and Worthing joint scrutiny committee, councillor Michael Donin claimed that developers “had been allowed to get away with far too much for far too long,” in terms of placing retrospective planning appeals which he believed needed urgent attention.
Mr Donin, who represents Durrington, said that maximum levels of fines available to authorities for breaches of planning permission were only in region of up to £20,000, which he felt was completely inadequate.
As a result, he is now setting up a working party to examine whether both councils can make use of local government and communities secretary Eric Pickles’ new legislation.
This is designed to allow regional authorities greater controls over the entire planning process.
Mr Donin described it as a very serious issue for the area, which had been failed to be resolved.
He said: “Planning enforcement just does not have any teeth here.
“I have seen it on many occasions where developers make retrospective planning applications and councils feel they have no choice but to approve a building, especially if it’s a larger development that has already been put up.
“I want our legal departments to take a look and see if there’s anything we can do with the rules and regulations on this to give our planning more power.”
His views were shared by Worthing Lib Dem councillor Keith Sunderland, representing Northbrook ward, cited Tesco’s superstore in Durrington as a key example of retrospective planning issues.
He said: “We have seen with Tesco how they built the site 10ft more to the south than they were permitted to.
“That doesn’t sound like much, but it makes a real difference to those who are living right next to it.
Mr Sunderland added: “The kind of fine they might get of up to £20,000 is absolutely nothing to them.”
The scrutiny committee also revealed the councils’ enforcement services had been especially stretched with nobody applying for a maternity cover vacancy for the senior enforcement manager.
The councils had then found cover for the post through an agency, with the candidate leaving after just two weeks in the job.