When a Local Council is fair and consistent with its planning decisions, those who are turned down can accept its decisions in the hope that the Council is making the correct decision in the best interests of the area. When a Local Council is inconsistent to the point of appearing incompetent or corrupt with its planning decisions then neighbourhoods become divided places, the local area suffers, and animosity is created between neighbours.
Imagine living in a neighbourhood where the average house price is over half a million pounds, where you and warring neighbours are so stressed out because of past and pending planning decisions that even walking down your own road seems impossible. Imagine a system where planning officers take sides with one party or the other and engineer objections to get their way. Imagine describing a few of the local councillors as people who “you need to check you still have your own fingers after shaking their hand” or “had to look at their shoulders to see which way they are facing”. Imagine retiring to a beautiful home by the sea after fifty years of slog and waking up each morning to see the Lego box property of some sociopathic dogsbody blocking your view and destroying everything you have worked for. Or feeling victimised because of apparent favours to certain householders such as refusal to order the cutting of leylandii (thus rendering neighbours’ homes uninsurable).
There are a growing number of examples of such developments and Council antics throughout Torbay. Risibly, the Council even described one case, on tape, as “a planning error but a special case”. Therein lies the problem – “special” cases.
With their apparent incompetence and unlawfulness, Torbay Planning Officers have turned neighbour against neighbour and traumatised the planning process to such a degree that many architects and developers have already notified Torbay Council, and have now informed CSM, that they simply avoid developing in the area of Torbay in favour of developing within neighbouring Councils.
Country Squire Magazine has been given access to recordings of Torbay planning meetings.
Picture a blend of The Muppet Show and The Thick of It. Despite most councillors being competent and genuinely trying their very best, CSM has learnt that there is a cesspit of a planning department in Torbay, characterised by illicitness; allowed to fester by a few bad egg councillors and officers.
Country Squire Magazine has evidence of councillors making extraordinary decisions, making up excuses on the hoof, referring decisions to full council when they know they are out of their depth and exposed, referring mates as contractors, charging spurious fees for predetermined “investigations”. Picture councillors granting themselves retrospective planning for illegal developments in their own properties, councillors unwisely using the premises of developers for events and entertainment, councillors using council money to fund their own businesses. All this against a background of random fires burning down buildings over a thirty year period, sudden resignations and reinstatements to boards and companies to avoid registering conflicts of interest, the most amateur covering of tracks ever seen, a golf club chumocracy, restaurant owners getting their own way by offering free meals and favours, key officials literally in bed together … the list of shame goes on and on.
The real tragedy in this story is the pain and suffering of residents. One lady we spoke to went anorexic because of the frustration of dealing with Torbay Council’s planners. Another “cried every day for four months,” and another “even reached the point of feeling suicidal”. Arguments with partners, stress levels soaring at home, cancer, heart trouble, rises in blood pressure – ailments exacerbated and perhaps even caused by planning disputes, consequent neighbour animosity and, of course, the financial burden of needing to engage legal experts to address Torbay Council’s errors and biased planning decision system. Regrettably, CSM has been informed of a soaring number of such personal tragedies occurring throughout Torbay.
Now the Council appears to favour destroying the countryside by building some dreadful care village in the beautiful area of Maidencombe, happily promulgated by the local rag. The same local rag that has failed to mention how The English Riviera Wheel lifted happy, smiling children into the sky last year but did not have planning permission because of the planning department’s backlog. CSM has a list of over a hundred such errors, omissions and illegalities – all showing Torbay planners as unfit for purpose.
As a publication with a fondness for Tory pragmatism and honour, we have great sorrow in writing these pieces about Torbay Council. Almost all the bad eggs are Tory. The MP Kevin Foster is obviously a nice guy, a good MP and has the ability to do a great deal of good for Torquay, but the pressure is now on him to force the bad eggs out – or the viability of his seat is going to be questioned.
Planning in Torbay simply has to be overhauled immediately. A possible merger with Plymouth has been discussed, but Torbay’s residents are concerned that the current incompetents will just be managed remotely by supervisors who lack the necessary knowledge of the area. The current staff must be replaced by people who have the requisite professionalism and objectivity to perform legally and efficiently. Funds must be thrown at the backlog which endangers lives.
In the meantime, animosity sloshes around parts of Torbay needlessly. Torbay Council is to blame and the blight their planners have caused in the area, especially to the health of its upstanding citizens, is frankly unforgiveable.
Should the local MP require a list of miscreants and their sins before our findings go national, he can contact us here.