Thankyou for visiting this page. Its subject is a complaint to Hambleton District Council for maladministration of planning applications and a planning appeal relating to, the now burnt out, Whitelass House.
You might feel Hambleton were justified, lying to planning appeal, and that the Whitelass House landmark is an important achievement for the Council. If so, let's work together to publicise and celebrate it.
Otherwise, perhaps bear in mind my family have lost a house - my childhood home. We had to stand by helplessly as it was torn apart by vandals and vagabonds. Ultimately I had to watch it burn out.
Hambleton think the answer is a fifth, expensive and identical planning application to remove the occupancy condition - in identical circumstances. If a new application will succeed, what was wrong with the first four, or with the appeal?
The next step for this complaint is consideration by Hambleton's Standards Committee on 6th June 2002.
Please find some time to read this page, or speak to me (01845 522604), and consider the complaint.
>>Next - Introduction
* - separate web page
Whitelass House, South Kilvington, Thirsk, North Yorkshire YO7 2LT
It is the last house in Thirsk, on the right, leaving north towards the village of South Kilvington. Whitelass House is adjacent to disused agricultural buildings that are allocated for residential redevelopment within the Thirsk town settlement boundary.
Whitelass House is a 4 bedroom dormer bungalow including extensive offices and other spaces. It was first constructed in 1967. The original planning consent included an agricultural occupancy clause:-
"The occupation of the dwelling shall be limited to persons employed or last employed in agriculture, as defined in section 221 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, or in forestry, and the dependants of such persons."
Agricultural occupancy conditions are a means of preventing the proliferation of residential development in the countryside and restricting new houses and bungalows to those required for agricultural, horticultural and forestry activities in the locality. There are about 600 dwellings restricted with agricultural conditions in the Hambleton District.
Whitelass House was occupied by John Barker, his wife Pat Barker and their three children. When they retired, their herd of dairy cattle and the majority of their farmland was sold. The central farmstead was zoned for residential development and the land they formerly rented was developed as an industrial estate. What little remained was let to other farmers. John and Pat Barker moved away to a smaller home and attempted to sell Whitelass House.
After some years on the market; several planning applications to remove the occupancy restriction and an unsuccesful planning appeal, the property became badly vandalised and was ultimately, substantially damaged by a fire. The outcome of a final planning application after the fire was also that the occupancy condition could not be removed.
To date, the only issue contributing to the unsatisfactory situation that has been identified by Hambleton District Council, or the owners, is the occupancy condition.
Whitelass House is currently boarded up. Its charred roof is a landmark for travellers.
>>Next - Summary of complaint to Mr Simpson
This issue is all about demand for agricultural dwellings. Steve Quartermain made quite clear this was the relevance of consideration of other existing dwellings and applications for agricultural dwellings at the Whitelass House planning appeal.
The public side of Hambleton's documentation is unmistakable - the dominant characteristic of the agricultural dwellings in the Thirsk area - and Hambleton plainly knew it - was their extraordinarily high vacancy and non compliance rates. It is now evident the rates known to Hambleton, at the time, were higher than the alarming figures presented by my family. Hindsight shows the actual figures were even higher again.
Given the staggering vacancy and non compliance rates and clear knowledge of the situation within Hambleton I do think that any officer's summary, report or submission to planning appeal that did not prominently include that information would have been misleading and dangerous. To have gone further, lying, as Hambleton did, at the Whitelass House planning appeal - denying there was any significant vacancy or non compliance issue is beyond belief.
The subsequent attribution of Hambleton's evidence to the 1992 self reported (and confidential!) survey is surprising. Officers ridiculed it at the time and described it in terms of just identifying people who wanted to be thrown out of their homes.
The Whitelass House cover up of the non compliance and vacancy rates amongst agricultural dwellings in the Thirsk area is not an isolated incident - rather a consistent deception.
You will recall the series of planning applications at Sunnybank Farm on Woodcock Lane. At issue was conversion of a piggery to a third agricultural occupancy restricted dwelling on what had been a part time, fifty acre farm in open countryside. The two adjacent agricultural dwellings were already blatantly occupied in breach of condition by well known local figures. One of them never had been occupied within condition.
Hambleton sought unsuccessfully to block the application for conversion.
A whistle blower in the planning department came to me and told me he had been surprised by Hambleton's reluctance to disclose the status of the adjacent dwellings at the Sunnybank Farm planning appeal - clear evidence that there was already an oversupply of agricultural dwellings in the immediate vicinity and no need for another one.
I don't have access to all of the papers, but from those which are public there is every indication Hambleton did conceal the status of the two adjacent agricultural restricted dwellings and their bankrupt approach to agricultural dwellings.
And yes, my family did also go through all of the marketing and other usual stuff at Whitelass House. The feedback was quite clear - there just wasn't a demand for that dwelling in its restricted form. The exercise was carried out at great expense over many years by the former chief planning officer of Harrogate Borough Council who now leads a national team of planning consultants. I believe Hambleton consults them from time to time on agricultural planning and related matters. That exercise will stand up to scrutiny once Hambleton's cover up and deception is disposed of.
>>Next - Picture gallery and postcards
Whitelass House postcards are available from firstname.lastname@example.org or Edward Barker, telephone 01845 522604.
Up to 10 cards despatched free of charge. For larger quantities, depending upon numbers required, a fee of 5 to 12 pence (£0.05 to £0.12) per card is payable.
The image is an attractive James Herriot country scene; a house frequently visited by Alf Wight and Donald Sinclair, the real life James Herriot and Siegfried Farnon. This landmark building celebrates the role of the James Herriot Centre operators, Hambleton District Council, and their determination to create an individual and high impact environment for local residents and visitors alike.
Copyright in the Whitelass House images is reserved by Edward Barker. In most cases, permission can be granted free of charge for non exclusive use by others. For further information, contact email@example.com
Big picture - darker, grayscale
Medium picture - grayscale
Colour picture - PC, 330k
Large colour picture - PC, 850k
Colour picture - Mac, 330k
Large colour picture -Mac, 850k
Medium colour picture
Non transparent version of picture on this page
The larger pictures do not display in some browsers - right click,
Save Target As... and view locally.
Black and white Whitelass House labels for 21 label laser label sheets in Microsoft Word format
>>Next - Some thoughts for councillors
I have pursued the matter and spoken to people inside of Hambleton and elsewhere and read through a few interesting files.
It is not my place to speak for any body at Hambleton but it is really not easy to find anyone who believes there really should be a condition on Whitelass House. When it comes to explaining that opinion in a way that doesn't cast some doubt on previous handling of the case by Hambleton or impact on other similar dwellings in the future, it is another matter.
My view has been that Hambleton misled the Whitelass House and other planning appeals over non compliance and vacancy rates for agricultural dwellings. This systematic denial is one explanation I can see for the situation we have today. Fine, except that my family have lost a house and I had to watch helpless as my childhood home was ripped to pieces and ultimately burnt out.
Discussion about my complaints are rather less forthcoming. That is probably the main of my three concerns (resolution, remedy and apology) and I would expect something rather better from Hambleton.
Those of you who are solicitors will see even more reasons than me why this thing cannot usefully go to law. You are even more familiar with the client who insists on pointlessly pursuing an issue at expense of his money and temper and your own time, but I can't see any reason not to push on complaining on the basis of publicity and ridicule. The damage is already largely done.
Some way on I can't really see what else or different my family could reasonably have been expected to do other than completely ignore the planning condition and occupy the place in breach. (It may be worth restating that my family did this properly with much expense of time and money on 4 applications and 1 appeal by the former head of planning of Harrogate Council - now advising Hambleton on agricultural dwellings and heading up a national planning team specialising in this sort of rural planning issue.)
The best I'm getting from Hambleton is that if I'm nice and quiet and spend a little bit more money they might finally remove the restriction and solve all of their problems and leave me to sort out the rest - I don't rate that as a response.
"We didn't lie and if we did it didn't matter and if it did matter..."
defence just opens more questions than it closes.
Not all of the non compliant dwellings claimed as compliant by Hambleton in 1992 were clearly so, even from the planning files. In some cases the evidence is anecdotal. We all know of these anecdotal cases. Anecdotal evidence of non compliance, without further inquiry, might fall short of that required by Hambleton to instigate enforcement action but I would have thought it might have deterred the Council of claiming to have absolute proof that the properties were compliant.
Ignorance is not a good defence for Hambleton; a Council that publicises its local awareness and ward councillors. Senior planning officers drive past Whitelass House every day; several councillors are farmers; they are particularly aware of agricultural dwellings and who lives in them. Some councillors even live in occupancy restricted dwellings.
Denial of the level of non compliance seems to have been deliberate, not a matter of ignorance.
>>Next - Did Hambleton's lies to planning appeal matter?
The it didn't matter argument -
Why lie then - responsible, balanced people don't lie unless they have a very good reason to.
Denying observations based on apparently authoritative, but unquestionable confidential evidence was an unhelpful attempt by Hambleton to discredit my family's arguments on one of those very few areas where there were objective facts and thereby the veracity of all our representations - the rest was all subjective; ready to discredit and discredited.
If Hambleton now think the Inspector was so convinced there was no demand for that property on other holdings in the locality at inquiry, why did they deny that conclusion outright at the subsequent planning application?
It raises questions about some of Hambleton's other representations to the planning appeal. For instance, why did Hambleton find a need to tell the Inspector that the residential zoning for the adjacent Rybeck Farm buildings would be revoked and the existing agricultural use encouraged. It hasn't happened yet and the idea of an intensive livestock unit in a housing estate seems curious. It may have been a convenient argument when Hambleton's objective was to hold onto Whitelass House as a wrecked agricultural restricted dwelling at absolutely all costs. From any other perspective it is rather odd.
Hambleton's approach of lying and employing any mechanism to keep a derelict agricultural restricted dwelling at the entrance to Thirsk, at absolutely all cost, has strongly discouraged my family from incurring ever more expense, distress and effort in submitting more frequent applications and appeals.
>>Next - Look at the overall situation rather than the detail
Just look at the overall situation.
If the Barker family have done everything they could have done, and Hambleton is sure it acted properly according to its policy then the central plank of Hambleton's rural residential planning is completely failing.
Either change the policy or address Hambleton's maladministration of it. Since other authorities make similar policies work, then maladministration is a favourite candidate.
>>Next - Does the end justify the means for Hambleton?
There is, in the planning files, a clear impression of frustration amongst officers as applicants and occupants lie, cheat and generally abuse the planning occupancy condition mechanism. Hambleton, in many cases, seems entirely unwilling or unable to deal effectively with spurious applications to construct agricultural dwellings or address subsequent blatant non compliance with condition.
That doesn't excuse officers taking the opportunity to lie, cheat and abuse the mechanism themselves to prove a point or try to get one back on an occupancy restricted dwelling.
The end does not justify the means, especially when the only end in mind is covering up a shameful and bankrupt record on agricultural dwellings in the district. Instead, there is a more appropriate way forward.
>>Next - A way forward
From the Barker point of view the resolution should deliver three things:-
Resolution - There has to be viable use of the premises so that they are not a maintenance burden, an eyesore and an unreasonable concern to the emergency services into the future.
Remedy - The at present considerable net costs and losses to the Barker family associated with Hambleton's maladministration of Whitelass should be eliminated.
Apology - It is time for Hambleton to say sorry to the Barker family; to the Police; to the Fire Brigade; to the residents of Thirsk and to visitors.
Unless Hambleton are open their policy has changed; they mishandled earlier applications or that there is some other plausible explanation for this mystifying record, there is no prospect of more time and money being spent on a fifth planning application by the owners. It would be an identical, fifth application in identical circumstances.
If Hambleton believe there is anything unsatisfactory in the present situation perhaps it is time they said that. Unraveling what that is, and the cause of it, with Hambleton's co-operation is a good start in dealing with the eyesore, the losses and preventing recurrences.
This complaint does not seek to proliferate new residential development in the countryside. Agricultural occupancy restrictions are the heart of national and Hambleton residential planning policy in the countryside. The complaint is with Hambleton's maladministration of policy, not with policy.
If there is concern within Hambleton that it is unable or unwilling to resist spurious proposals for new dwellings which are then blatantly occupied in breach of condition and that dealing properly with the condition at Whitelass House will create an unwelcome precedent for those spurious dwellings, then the answer lies elsewhere. It is to deal effectively, and honestly, with the spurious applications; not to lie to planning appeal and abuse the situation at Whitelass House.
If Hambleton's Planning and Environmental Services Directorate lacks the courage to make this progress, the way forward is for the complaint to be referred to the Council's Standards Committee.
[General difficulty of pursuing the complaint recognised by Mr Simpson (Just do another planning application) - Difficulty to Hambleton recognised by Mr Quartermain.]
|Hambleton District Council, Civic Centre, Stonecross, Northallerton, North Yorkshire DL7 2UU|
Telephone: 01609 779977
Facsimile: 01609 767228
Web site http://www.hambleton.gov.uk
|Peter Simpson||Chief Executive|
|Steve Quartermain||Director of Planning and Environmental Services|
|Maurice Cann||Head of Development Control|
|Hambleton councillors '99, '00, '01, '02 and '03|
When a senior Hambleton planning officer visited me at home on the morning ahead of the 24th June 1992 planning refusal to remove the occupancy condition I was surprised by the deal on offer.
He suggested Hambleton would remove the condition on Whitelass House and move it to my own cottage in Thirsk.
First of all, I failed to see what purpose an occupancy condition had on a cottage in the town. If there wasn't a need for the condition on Whitelass House, quite clearly there wasn't going to be a need for one on my own cottage.
The planning officer knew me; knew I wasn't involved in agriculture and knew I lived there because the conversation was on my doorstep.
I can't imagine Hambleton were at all interested in throwing me out on the street. In hindsight my interpretation is this was a convenient way of disposing of the issue. There was plainly no point in keeping a condition on Whitelass House. This was a face saver for the Council. Hambleton just assumed that I, like so many others in their District, would just continue to live there, criminalise myself, and completely ignore the restriction.