What a dreadfully biased and ill researched load of old twaddle ITV served up tonight in their so called news feature "Tonight - Supersize my house".
The reporter, Fiona Foster, seemed to lack even a basic knowledge of planning laws. She accepted without question the story from the couple in Calderdale when they said
"We knew you could build 20-30% bigger than you have planning permission for"
What ! My wife, who is a planning officer was absolutely amazed that this wasn't questioned at all. Just looking at their house you can see it was out of proportion and had not followed a plan, yet Fiona Foster accepted their story and we were supposed to feel sorry for them. Since when has a planning application, particularly one for a barn conversion in a green belt ever been alllowed to go 20-30% over size ?
Still, I guess it is only ITV and you cannot expect them to have the highest journalistic standards. After all, they are not there to educate, only to make money.
The next story then featured a man who had tried to flout planning laws and used a loophole in the law (the Four year rule) which means if you live in a property for more than four years, you can apply for retrospective planning permission and it must be granted. As Fiona Foster explained that this man had basically decided to "cheat" his way in to building a new house bu building it inside a bard so that it was hidden, she allowed the owner of the house to make out he was the victim when the council successfully argue that he had cheated and that the bungalow must be pulled down.
Throughout the program the argument was used that "the neighbour does not mind" or "it couldn't be seen" or "it was miles from anywhere". These arguments were given by Tonight as if they are material considerations when building on green belt land, which of course, they are not.
I am sure any councillor watching who has received planning training would have been incensed by the shoddy level of reporting. but when we had to put up with a property reporter from a broadsheet newspaper blaming councils for building small houses without making the point that governments set planning policy and give out regular guidance for councils to follow, then you could tell that the who show was an ill informed rant against councils.
Personally, I think the real answer is to make planning law a criminal law, not civil. You'd soon see people start to take notice and do the right thing if that were the case.