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ALLESTREE HALL
Derby City Council selected Prime Holdings Limited as its preferred developer for the grade II* listed hall in Allestree Park. But, two years later, no planning application has been submitted. English Heritage outlined its plans for the work in December 2004.

Prime Holdings intends to convert the Georgian hall and its outbuildings into offices and residential apartments. If successful, Prime Holdings will take on the property on a 299-year lease. The council said it wants to avoid a repeat of the controversy the redevelopment of Elvaston Castle has caused.

Steve Meynell, the council's chief estates officer, said the developer would take over about three acres of the grounds, meaning that the rest of the 320-acre Allestree Park and golf course would remain open to the public. He said he did not want Allestree Hall to become "another Elvaston Castle".
TARGETS EXCEEDED
In the year ending March 2004, Derby City Council's planning department exceeded government targets for dealing with minor applications, such as home extensions but it is falling well below the target for major applications. The government requires that 60% of all major applications, such as large housing developments, should be handled within 13 weeks. The council's completed just 36%.

But 67% of minor applications were handled within eight weeks during 2003-4, compared with a government target of 60%. And 81% of "other" applications were handled within eight weeks, compared with a target of 78%. Mike Kaye, the council's assistant director (development), said, "The government's target is unrealistic. Major applications are the ones that involve the most negotiation and involve the most public comment. I'm delighted with the performance of the team."
COMPLAINTS INVESTIGATION
Council enforcement officers were called to investigate complaints from people in Rosedale Avenue and Holloway Road, Alvaston, that the glare from floodlights at Boulton Primary School was streaming into their homes.

The council was granted permission by its planning control committee to install a games area and floodlights at the school in Wyndham Street and one of the planning conditions was that the lights should be "shielded and directed to prevent glare to neighbouring properties".

But following the recent installation of the 12-metre floodlights, residents have complained that the condition has not been met. The council has admitted breaching the conditions and pledged to rectify the situation before the lights are used again.

Neil Jackson, council enforcement officer, said, "They should have been shielded. It's impossible for us to check on every single condition that's put on every planning application." Really? If this is true, what confidence can we have in larger projects?
       


COUNCIL PLANNING DEPARTMENT

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The new mental health hospital is to take prisoners from jails and courts and Derby City Council has admitted it did not even know about the criminals when it initially gave the go-ahead for the City Gate complex without proper public consultation. Developer Cygnet did not legally have to tell the council who was going to be treated but Paul Bayliss, an Alvaston ward councillor, was shocked the public had not been told it would house prisoners. Under planning law, applications can be approved without the finer details of what buildings are to be used for.

Instead, planners look at applications in more general terms. In the case of the City Gate development, they considered it as a "residential care and treatment facility". The application did not mention prisoners because there was no legal requirement for it to do so. Private healthcare company Cygnet and NHS East Midlands Specialised Commissioning Group have both confirmed that patients at the unit could be referred by prison psychiatrists or they could have been mentally ill when they committed a crime and sent directly to the unit by the courts.

Kath Murphy, associate director of the commissioning group, which would be responsible for paying for the patients' care, said patients could have come from prison, from the courts, from high or medium-secure mental health hospitals following rehabilitation, or from the general community. She said, "Some could pose a risk to members of the public but they shouldn't be there if the degree of risk can't be managed within the level of security provided. The likelihood is that, if they have committed a serious crime, the psychiatrist would recommend that they be sent to a medium or high-secure mental health unit for treatment."

Ms Murphy said security was needed to stop the patients from running away, for example if they were drug-users or did not want to be treated. She was not aware of any escapes during the 18 months she had been involved in overseeing units of this type across the East Midlands. Cygnet regional director Shaun Ramsey said that 30 of the 46 beds could cater for patients who needed to be in a "low secure" setting, such as prisoners. The rest would be used for people with less serious mental illness. But he said he would not know how many of the 30 beds would be used by prisoners until patients started to be referred to the unit. (Source:
Derby Evening Telegraph, Jan/10)


Derby City Council's planning control committee decided that a 12.5m plan to transform the former Mackworth College annexe into a retail park was "dull and drab." They also highlighted police concerns over the scheme's failure to include high railings around the site, between Normanton Road and Burton Road, which officers said would make policing the area difficult. Councillors also said the plans failed to include the planting of trees along the site's Burton Road boundary, which they argued would make the area more attractive. Plans for the site had included six units, but most of the major retailers originally on board had pulled out after years of uncertainty surrounding the development.

The project, dubbed College Park, was given outline planning permission in January 2002. Councillor Joan Travis said, "They're just too dull and drab. The plans need to be more interesting but they keep coming back to us with hardly any changes made. There is no point in asking the developer to change the plans if they keep coming back with the same thing." Property developer Clinton Bourke, chairman and managing director of Wheatcroft Land, had previously named Aldi, Iceland, Carphone Warehouse, Majestic Wine, Next and Maplin Electronics among the big names who were interested in the development. In December 2004, the supermarket chain Tesco ended its interest in the scheme. Planning permission to create a McDonald's drive-through restaurant on the site was also rejected in November 2002.


Plans by members of Derby's Sikh community to convert a clothing factory into a temple have been recommended for approval, despite objections from residents. Members of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha temple in Pear Tree Street, Normanton, want to move to bigger premises on an industrial estate in nearby Princes Street. The building, which was home to the Blue Wave Clothing Company, is almost four times as big as the existing 6,000 sq ft temple. The site is close to homes and 33 people have signed a petition calling for the city council to reject the planning application.

They are concerned that events such as weddings would create "too much noise" and that people travelling to the new temple would "aggravate the area's existing traffic and parking problems". Planning officers have recommended that councillors approve the application at a meeting of the planning control committee. Ragbhir Singh Taggar, president of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha temple, said, "We're really pleased by the recommendation. We've said it'll be quiet and we'll not get much more traffic than normal. All the people we've spoken to are in favour of it and we're willing to talk to anyone and tell them we want to be good neighbours."

The temple's management had originally intended to complete the proposed 250,000 conversion before the start of the Sikh New Year. Mr Singh said that, if approval was given, he expected that the move would be made within two or three months. It is understood that this would be followed by a planning application to develop the Pear Tree Street site for housing. Mike Kaye, the council's assistant director for development, said that, if the factory was used in its current "industrial" capacity, it could create far more traffic than the temple would. (Source:
Derby Evening Telegraph)


In the early days of campaigning to save Derby's 1930s bus station from demolition, I was told by an experienced member of the Planning Control Committee that "the planning process is not a very democratic one". I was to find out just how true that was during my two years as a councillor and member of the committee. Outside consultants, developers and planning officers decide what will be built in Derby.

When public consultations are conducted, it is only about the minor details of a scheme. The major decisions have already been made. The committee rarely votes against the recommendations of the planning officers, because developers have the right to appeal against refusals. If they win it takes tax payers money to pay costs. Officer opinion has to rule.

Public objections and advice from the Conservation Advisory Committee seldom have any effect on planning decisions in Derby. The Planning Control Committee has little real control. A better name would be the Planning Consent Committee. At present the whole planning system is weighted in favour of developers. Ann Crosby

Jonathan Guest, Development Director, Derby City Council responded:

"Claims of a lack of democracy simply can't be substantiated. Major planning applications are decided by members of the planning committee, each of whom is democratically elected to the city council. More minor applications are decided by planning officers against a set of criteria agreed by councillors.

As for the 'major decisions' which 'have already been made' before a planning application is considered, once again it is the democratically elected members of the council who make those decisions when they agree the policies and proposals to be included in the Local Plan and any accompanying planning guidelines.

It would be quite inappropriate, and rightly open to challenge, for the council to refuse planning applications for proposals which it has included in its own development plans for the city."


People applying for planning permission in Derby have faced the longest delays for 11 years, according to a new report. City council figures reveal that its planning department dealt with only half of applications within eight weeks between January and March 2003. A total of 528 applications were submitted, of which 47% were dealt with within eight weeks, compared to the national average of 67%. The report states: "Our performance during the quarter was the lowest for any quarter for 11 years." But the council, which says the backlog has been cut down through staff working overtime, has blamed the delay on a massive increase in applications, because a growing number of people are carrying out renovations.

There were 88 more applications received between January and March than between October and December 2002. The number of applications received by the council was the second highest in the East Midlands. The council also says that the department was one member of staff short until mid-March. It is now hoping that the second quarterly performance, between April and June, will show that the authority is back on track. The planning team is now back up to its full quota of eight case officers and two group leaders.

Mike Kaye, the council's assistant director of development, said, "We had a big increase in the number of applications than we would normally expect from that quarter. We were aware of the low performance, which was caused by this vast increase in applications. We made significant changes to the way we operated in April. Our staff are working overtime so that we don't repeat these figures." Council leader Maurice Burgess said, "The figures for April to June are still being counted. Initially they show that there has still been a large number of applications, but we have shown a dramatic improvement and now deal with about 70% of minor applications within eight weeks."

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