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Broads Authority accused of ‘double standards’ in row over tent

PUBLISHED: 07:55 14 September 2017 | UPDATED: 19:09 14 September 2017

James Knight of Waveney River Centre with one of the yurts. Photo: Archant

James Knight of Waveney River Centre with one of the yurts. Photo: Archant

Archant

The Broads Authority is facing questions about how it is run and its structure. In the second of a two-day special report, we look at its handling of planning applications.

The large tent put up by Broads Authority at dockyard in Thorpe St Andrew which has not needed planning permission. Photo: Submitted The large tent put up by Broads Authority at dockyard in Thorpe St Andrew which has not needed planning permission. Photo: Submitted

James Knight has had a series of disputes with the authority’s leadership over planning matters and its governance.

But even he was surprised to be sent a list of 15 questions by planners about his Mongolian-style tents.

The businessman, who runs a blog critical of the way the Authority is run, was asked by planners in July to submit a planning application for three yurts which he had put up at his campsite at Waveney River Centre on the Norfolk-Suffolk border.

He refused, stating he already had planning permission for the campsite and the yurts were covered by that.

Mr Knight, a member of the authority’s navigation committee, was then sent 15 questions about his yurts which he refused to answer.

“The authority appears to be spending a disproportionate amount of time and resources in investigating items of trivia at our business,” he wrote to them in August.

An eight-page report about his three yurts is now going before the authority’s next planning committee on Friday.

“They are determined to find any breach of planning control they can, but have so far failed to come up with much,” he said. “They are also insistent on taking the matter to members but they are only doing this to embarrass me.

Vice chairman of Broads Authority planning committee Paul Rice. Photo: NNDC Vice chairman of Broads Authority planning committee Paul Rice. Photo: NNDC

“You have to ask why they would spend so much time and public money investigating three tents on a campsite.”

Yet one tent-like structure which Mr Knight has discovered does not need planning permission is a six-metre high and 20-metre long tent put up by the Broads Authority at its boatyard in Thorpe St Andrew two years ago. Mr Knight claimed it showed “double standards” with planning.

The authority has told Mr Knight it does not need permission for the boatyard tent as it is a temporary structure. But it has been in place since September 2015.

A spokesman for the authority said the issues around Mr Knight’s yurts were not “a straightforward determination”. It said planning authorities needed to “establish a number of parameters” before deciding whether yurts needed consent.

Broads Authority Chief Executive John Packman has defended the body in face of criticism. Picture Andrew Stone Broads Authority Chief Executive John Packman has defended the body in face of criticism. Picture Andrew Stone

The spokesman added the tent at its boatyard was used for maintaining equipment to upkeep the Broads.

“It was originally thought that the tent would be in place for a short length of time,” they said, meaning planning permission was not needed.

“For a number of operational reasons there is a longer term need for the tent and its planning status is consequently being reviewed,” they added.

More: A five-year row over a £500 boat toll costs Broads Authority thousands of pounds

The authority dealt with 225 planning applications last year and 94pc were approved, 
but it has a history of unusual planning disputes and has been accused in the past of being “heavy handed” when it comes to planning.

The authority has a duty to protect and conserve the area and has previously taken action against residents for putting up “unauthorised fencing”, mooring a caravan on a pontoon, installing a boardwalk without permission and having too much decking.

More recently, its planning committee has rejected applications, which have then been overturned on appeal, because it did not like the design of cladding, it did not like the design of roller shutter doors and it did not like uPVC windows.

Last year four out of the eight planning decisions appealed against were overturned in favour of the applicant. The year before that the Broads Authority lost three of the four appeals made by applicants.

Of the last ten appeals against the authority’s decisions, five have been successful and planning appeals have cost it thousands in legal fees.

“The recent appeals record is disappointing,” an authority report from March said.

Vice chairman of the planning committee Paul Rice, who is North Norfolk District Council’s member on the authority, said things needed to change.

“I have concerns about the way things are (at the authority) and feel we need to review,” he said.

“So many appeals have been lost - we need to have a policy review. Are we being given the facts in meetings when it comes to planning?”

The authority said it has been “very successful” at defending planning appeals and was “surprised and disappointed” at the recent decisions which it lost.

But it said its members had already decided there did not need to be a change in the authority’s policies, it just needed to take care over interpreting planning policy.

More: What is going on at the Broads Authority?

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