Beeny’s council nightmare

More free publicity for Mrs Beeny

Spending a bit of time at home with Mrs WLLG is usually a local government free zone. I figured this was set to consider as we tuned into the last in the series of Sarah Beeny’s restoration nightmare.

For those who like me haven’t watched Mrs Beeny on television since his flatmate had an unusual crush on her during the first series of property ladder, this latest series sees Mrs Beeny, her husband and children trying to renovate a huge country house.

So far so tediously Channel 4.

As those who have watched the drama unfold over the past few months will be able to attest unfortunately this programme is anything but a local government free zone.

In fact for some reason it has almost turned into a pitched battle between the local authority and the Beenys. You see, the Beeny clan had, over the course of ten years rebuilt the house and were planning to live in it (shock horror). This was against the ‘rules’ as the property was currently zoned as a school.

Even worse they then wanted to open it up as a wedding venue (woah, we’ve only just approved you to live in it) thus making it a business and not a home. More permissions needed. What’s more, (and here I’ve relied on the Daily Mail’s more detailed description of the story) the crazy developers had broken more planning laws:

The Welsh slate used for the roof had been replaced with European slate and she had erected some gate posts without any permission.

And we wonder why local government gets a bad name!

Regardless of whether the East Riding of Yorkshire were acting technically within the law (I’m no expert but I would stake some money on the fact that they were) in my opinion they should all collectively hang their head in shame:

1)      As far as I could work out (from the 40 minutes of expert viewing I performed) the Beeny clan had taken a wrecked property and turned it into a usable house/venue. Regardless of your definition of renovation this is in the whole community’s interest so as soon as a change request to stop the building being classified as a school was received it should be an open and shut case. Does the Local Authority really have a dilapidated building in its education plan? If it does they’re more stupid than they looked on TV and if they don’t then turning down the change of use is simply churlish.

2)      The statement from the authority that the Daily Mail were given said:

As a self-proclaimed expert on property renovation, Ms Beeny should have been well aware that the restoration of the Grade II* Listed Building and its conversion to a wedding and events venue would require these consents.

Again, the local authority staff look like self-important jobsworths rather than a service provider trying to do the best for their community. Why are they on the offensive against one of their residents who is trying to restore an old house and set up a business? Surely, they’ve picked the wrong villain here?

How about a response that goes:

As a Grade II listed building, Roots Hall requires a number of special permissions before it can be transferred for another use. Our job is to ensure that the building is protected in line with these requirements and we are working with the Beeney’s to ensure this takes place appropriately.

Or something like that. There really is no need to get into a fight with them over this. By setting themselves up as adversaries who are the council really benefiting (apart from the TV company maybe?)?

3)      The fight against the Beeny’s has been spearheaded by a councillor (Matthew Grove, the area’s Conservative ward councillor) who obviously has an axe to grind (or some publicity to garner). If the council is right and there are set laws to follow then this is not a democratic process but a technical one. They should say so and remove politics from this. If it is a democratic process then they should say that too and be clear about what is and isn’t set in stone versus what is democratically decided. Instead, Mr Grove has done the running, the council has backed him up and they all look a little ridiculous.

I am also of the opinion that requiring planning permission for some gateposts (do we have nothing better to do?) is ridiculous but we’ll leave that for another day.

What else did I learn from the programme? I’m still entirely sure what my housemate’s crush was all about!?!

PS. Not being a planner; if someone who does work in planning wants to write a piece defending our friends at the East Riding please do drop us a line

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4 Comments on “Beeny’s council nightmare”

  1. Will Says:

    Not a planner but a local government officer who takes a keen interest in planning issues. I think the blog is right that Councils should always be aware of how they communicate the reasons behind their actions but I’m not sure that sourcing your information from a C4 programme made by the developer and the Daily Mail will ensure you receive balanced information.

    Planning departments are full of pedants for detail and thank god. Part of protection our architectual heritage is making sure that works to buildings particularly those of significant historical value use the right designs and the right materials. There are also the environmental benefits of sourcing materials from UK rather than overseas.

    Councils will want to see old buildings brought back into use but they should consider the impact of any change of use (i.e. from School to residential to business) may have on the people in the area. This desire to protect has to be balanced against a need to ensure that we make best use of land and buildings in our communities.

    Finally I’d say that there is a role for democratic representatives in the planning system. Cllrs are great at voicing the concerns of their local community in the system challenging the developers and the planning officers and occassionally injecting local knowledge and common sense in to the system.

    We’re very lucky to have a system that tries (not always successfully) to balance all these competing needs. If we didn’t we could live in an physical environment as blighted as some in USA or Spain.

    P.s. Getting planning permission for some gatepost is not ‘ridiculous’ as that will be the thing we can all see from the road and will likely have the most visual impact on

  2. Helena Jacobs Says:

    I agree with the original post, I think the council are so petty. I am really agreeing with so called views floating aroudn it the press on some council staff tryiing to justify their jobs. Hopefully the goverment cuts will get rid of those petty people!!!

  3. david Says:

    All well and good IF the local authority and indeed local cllrs actually understand the laws they are dealing with. it seems to me that their understanding of planning law in this case was rather muddled. Even if they were acting within the law which i am convinced they were not there was little benefit to Rise Hall, the local community, local jobs or anyone from this ludicrous traffic warden style policing.

  4. mmmmmmm Says:

    Agree that the comment from the council about Sarah being a ‘self-proclaimed expert’ shows they are not acting in a professional way. That sort of personal attack is not helpful and comes across as quite vindictive. Councils SHOULD be working with people to find solutions instead of only finding problems. On top of this, planning officers are reluctant to speak to developers face to face instead they set up a barrier to communication…this is why our system is unworkable.

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