Council treats big business better than residents

If I were to park on one of Ribble Valley Borough Council’s car parks and overstay my allotted time, then – if the “man in the white van” had chosen to visit in the meantime – I would receive a penalty notice.

No ifs, no buts, no extenuating circumstances; as a mere individual I would be required under the regulations to pay the penalty. I would be subject to “civil enforcement”! If I chose not to pay, I would be taken to court and dealt with appropriately. In the interests of a well-ordered society such regulations are deemed to be necessary.

Contrast that with RVBC’s attitude towards big business, this time in the form of Taylor Wimpey plc. During July this company installed three very large advertising panels which relate to their developments off Henthorn Road and in Low Moor.

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There are clearly set out statutory regulations relating to the size and position of any such panels and the explicit requirement for the installer to inform the local planning authority at least 14 days in advance, to provide an opportunity for the authority to determine if they are acceptable.

If they had informed RVBC, Taylor Wimpey will have known from the outset the application would be rejected.

Being a responsible company (their words), they fully understand the regulations and already know the panels are non-compliant.

For example, the one across from Rufus Carr’s garage is 16 times larger in area than the regulations permit, it should not give the impression it is a standard direction sign and should not be placed in close proximity to a road traffic sign. The regulations are clear and they have been blatantly ignored.

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A complaint was sent to RVBC in early August, soon after the signs appeared, yet four months since then no enforcement action has been taken. Had there been a minor infringement one could understand but, in each case, the three panels seriously affect “visual amenity” and “public safety”, both concepts which the regulations state clearly that local authorities must pay special attention to. This is a statutory obligation, not a discretionary power.

Two months ago the enforcement officer decided Taylor Wimpey should, despite the regulations, be given the opportunity to apply for retrospective permission to allow the illegal signs to remain in place. Despite many reminders, at the time of writing the application has still not been registered.

In the meantime Taylor Wimpey, having given RVBC the run-around, will be happy their panels remain in place despite the intrusive effect they have on the visual amenity of the area and the threat they pose to highway safety.

Not content with illegal advertising panels, the developers (including Barratt Homes this time) have more recently installed large advertising flags at the entrance to the Henthorn Road development. The regulations permit up to three flags for developments of over 100 houses; currently there are 17 flags flapping in the breeze on the edge of open countryside.

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In future, if I happen to get caught out on an RVBC car park, I’m going to claim to be a “responsible national company”. That should do the trick!

David J Butterworth,

Fairfield Drive, Clitheroe

In response to the above letter, a spokesman for Ribble Valley Borough Council said: “We are well aware of Mr Butterworth’s complaint, but cannot talk about specific enforcement cases. Increasingly, businesses are flouting planning regulations, either in ignorance, or deliberately. We are taking the appropriate action, but it can take time to resolve and we appreciate residents’ patience.”

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