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T

his article is drawn from

experience of many Planning

Advice Committee (PAC) cases –

please note that rules are different for

tenants (especially Council tenants),

those who live in listed buildings or

conservations areas and may vary

slightly outside of England.

For most amateurs who have problems

with planning, the first sign of trouble is an

unexpected visitor – the Council Planning

Enforcement Officer. Why have they called?

Enforcement Officers rarely cruise the area

looking for unauthorised development so,

in most cases, they come in response to a

complaint – and that usually comes from a

neighbour. So we should have a word about

neighbour relationships.

Neighbours range from ‘never, ever’ to

‘can I help you put it up’ – and all shades

between. Some neighbours will always be

‘never, ever’ but, apart from them, most

neighbours can be gently nudged towards

‘can I help you put it up’.

How to do this? Talk to them, be polite

and civil, give them (or their children)

Christmas presents, cut their lawn if they are

unwell – almost whatever it takes (as long,

obviously, as it can be justified to your and

their partners!). Are they doing something

you don’t like? Consider carefully before

complaining about anything they do – one

complaint may well lead to another (as the

amateur in a recent case found to his cost).

Even talking to them about the hobby and

explaining what you are putting up and why

is really helpful.

But, to return to the unexpected visitor,

Enforcement Officers tend not to be qualified

planners – so take what they say about

planning with a pinch of salt. But here are

some do’s and don’ts and some untruths.

1. Do let them in, show them what you have

and explain what amateur radio is. They

have a statutory power of entry, so turning

them away only antagonises them and

delays things – better to start off on the

right note.

2. Explain to the Enforcement Officer that

you would like to take advice (this will be

expected) and give them a timescale (that

they can use to pacify the complainant).

Stick to the timescale (or, if you need an

extension, ask for it in plenty of time and

have a good reason). Most Enforcement

Officers are remarkably tolerant as long as

you communicate with them and do what

you say.

3. If the four year rule applies (see below) it

does no harm to say so.

4. Under no circumstances offer to take

anything down

or make a planning

application (yet).

5. They may point out that planning rules

allow you to put up a conventional TV

aerial plus two small satellite dishes;

and that what you have is greater than

that and so should come down (and

that nothing else is allowed). This is true

except

that this right does not affect your

ability to make an application and have

it properly considered or to rely on other

rights (see later).

6. Be aware that the Enforcement Officer

has no power to make you take an aerial

down (whatever they may say) without

first serving an Enforcement Notice and

only then after the appeal rights have

been exhausted. Whilst all this is going on

(expect it to take months) there is no need

to take anything down and you remain

on the air. You may receive a letter from

the Enforcement Officer ‘instructing’ you

to take down the aerial or else (and the

language can be quite threatening) – but

this letter has no legal force. So

do not

comply with ‘instructions’ in letters like

this.

7. Don’t sit on your hands hoping that it will

go away (it won’t). You need to start doing

things.

So what next?

First establish (and try to agree with the

Council) what actually needs permission – so

you have a base position of aerials that do not

need fresh permission in which you are on

the air and from which things can develop.

So what doesn’t usually need permission ?

• Aerials that you can show have been in

place unchanged (except for maintenance)

for 4 years or more – read carefully my

article on the Four Year Rule

[1]

.

• Small aerials – TV aerial-sized antennas

or long wires are usually regarded as ‘de

minimus’.

• Small aerials attached to the dwelling that

don’t exceed the eaves height.

Note this is very broad brush and this is

the point at which you may need the RSGB

PAC’s advice – take some photos and do

Feature

Unexpected

Visitor

82

March 2018

An

Stephen Purser, GW4SHF

company.secretary@rsgb.org.uk

At the first sign of problems, get in touch with the RSGB Planning Advice Committee, don’t delay.