NEWS that Bradford Council has carried out works at one of its own developments without the proper planning permission has been described as “diabolical,” “embarrassing” and “disgraceful.”
The comments were made by Councillors who were being asked to approve retrospective changes to a major housing development, being carried out by the Council, at the site of the former Bronte School in Oakworth.
The Council is nearing completion of a development of 51 houses on the site, but made a number of changes from the original plans without applying for planning permission first. These included chopping down two trees on the site they had originally agreed to retain, and removing a picturesque pond from an on site community space.
A retrospective application to make these changes legal was discussed by Bradford Council’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee on Thursday, when the architect behind the scheme said a “menacing” tree and the fear of a child drowning in the pond had led to the changes.
Members approved the changes, but were furious that the Council would set such a bad example as changing an approved development without permission.
Lorraine Wright, from the Council’s housing services, told members: “I acknowledge we haven’t met the high standards you may have expected from us as a developer. I apologise for that. As a result of this we are reviewing our procedures to ensure this situation will not happen again.”
Peter McDermott, architect behind the scheme, said the pond, which would have been used for drainage on the site, had been replaced by an underground drainage tank. He said after the scheme was approved, they realised it would have to be at least 1.7 metres deep to operate correctly. He added: “We didn’t want to share the responsibility of having a child at some stage wandering into the pond.”
Explaining why one of the trees was cut down without permission, he said during development they realised how close it was to one of the houses. He added; “It may well appear menacing to future occupiers.”
“This is about how the Council behaves as a developer. This type of issue isn’t out of the ordinary, but if we are going to criticise other developers about their behaviour then we need to up our game.
“This is a bit embarrassing.”
Councillor Riaz Ahmed (Lib Dem, Bradford Moor) said: “I’m deeply disappointed. If we can’t do things right as a a Council, what type of message is that putting out?”
Councillor Mohammed Amran (Lab, Heaton) said the situation was “disgraceful” adding: “What example are we setting? You said you realised late on that the drainage pond would need to be 1.7 metres deep, why didn’t we think of that before? You say a tree would be too close to a window, why didn’t you realise that before? This is appalling coming from the Council.”
He said he was going to vote against the application, but remembered that with the Council being the developer, any cost of changing the development back to what was approved would fall to the taxpayer.