New Principles

Estate Management Team

It is intended that the Estate Management team would comprise two officers, who would provide free pre-application advice, determine Estate Management applications, seek to resolve any breaches through negotiation and take enforcement action where necessary.

It is considered that two officers could be funded by income from the indicative fees set out below and would have sufficient capacity to carry out the workload of applications and enforcement.

The team will continue to use existing MasterGov IT software that is already in place to register applications and undertake necessary consultations with neighbours and others.

Design Guide

The Council have appointed Place Services to prepare a Welwyn Garden City Estate Management Scheme Design Guide. The Design Guide will apply to all freehold, leasehold and council-owned properties in the Estate Management Scheme ‘pink’ area.

It is intended that this will be a web-based guide that residents, tenants, estate agents, planning agents, potential residents, potential tenants, ward councillors and all others can view whenever they wish, in order to get clear guidance on what is likely to be acceptable works to their property. The website would also provide information on the history of the Scheme and links to the application form and database of historic and live applications.

Design Guide

Indicative Application Fees

In considering the appropriate level at which to recommend application fees, officers have had regard to both the estimated costs of an Estate Management team, the type of applications that the Council receives and the charges set for similar schemes elsewhere in the country. As well as this, officers have considered the impact that different types of proposals can have on the values and amenities of the Estate Management area and the need to avoid residents being put off from making Estate Management applications for relatively minor projects, which in turn could lead to more breaches and enforcement activity.

A link to the proposed fee schedule is below.

Proposed Fee Schedule

Large Projects

Large projects that are likely to have high amenity impact such as conservatories and extensions should be £30 per square metre, up to a maximum of £500. The fee will be the same whether the project is new or replacement. It is considered that this should be calculated by gross external floor area, so that a single storey extension of 5 sqm would be £150 and a two storey extension of 10 sqm would be £300. Any extension with 17 sqm or more of floorspace would be capped at £500.

Medium Projects

Medium projects that are likely to have some amenity impact such as garage conversions, sheds and outbuildings, hardstandings and driveways and new dormers, porches, doors, windows, rooflights, solar panels, chimneys, gates, walls, fences, etc should be £100. It is proposed that multiples of the same project (i.e. three new dormer windows) should be £100 as they are likely to have the same amenity impact but that multiples of different projects (i.e. one new dormer window and one new porch) should be £200 as they are likely to have different amenity impacts.

Small Projects

Small projects that might have some amenity impact such as replacement dormers, porches, doors, windows, rooflights, solar panels, chimneys, gates, walls, fences, etc should be £50. It is proposed that multiples of the same project (i.e. three replacement dormer windows) should be £50 as they are likely to have the same amenity impact but that multiples of different projects (i.e. one replacement dormer window and one replacement porch) should be £100 as they are likely to have different amenity impacts.

In practice, it would be recommended to applicants that they submit separate applications for separate projects, so that they can be determined independently of one another (so that a refusal on one project wouldn’t necessarily delay any other approvable projects).

Tree Works

All tree works applications will be free of charge.

It is considered that multiples of different projects from different categories should be added together as they are likely to have different amenity impacts, so that a two storey extension of 10 sqm (£300), plus a new dormer window (£100), plus a new hardstanding (£100), plus a replacement fence (£50) would be a total of £550. In this case there would be no maximum.

Fees will be the same for retrospective application as they are for normal applications.  At present the Council charges £242 for retrospective applications but this is partly because there is currently no fee for normal applications.  A retrospective fee could be a deterrent to stop people progressing works without consent but it might also create conflict in seeking to resolve any problems.  The Council considers that it is preferable to focus on achieving good quality projects.

It is suggested that fees should be reviewed at the end of the first year of operation of the new arrangements, to ensure they are sufficient to fund the Estate Management team.

Please note that the fees would be in addition to any planning application fees that may be required for the proposed projects.

Multiples

It is considered that multiples of different projects from different categories should be added together as they are likely to have different amenity impacts, so that a two storey extension of 10 sqm (£300), plus a new dormer window (£100), plus a new hardstanding (£100), plus a replacement fence (£50) would be a total of £550. In this case there would be no maximum.

Other administrative arrangements

Applications will only be validated once the appropriate fee has been paid and plans submitted. A system will be set up to ensure fees can be paid electronically.

All applications will be registered on the MasterGov IT system and made available for public consultation for at least 21 days. The Council will inform to adjoining neighbours and ward councillors to make them aware of the application and invite them to make comments.

Pre-application Advice

The timescale for providing free pre-application advice will be up to 30 working days, but hopefully much quicker in the majority of cases.

Free pre-application advice will only be provided to potential residents/tenants where they can demonstrate genuine interest in buying or renting a property. This is for situations where someone wants to find out whether they are likely to be able to change a property that they are intending to buy or rent, before they commit to doing so. As currently happens however, actual applications will only be accepted from owners or tenants of the property in question.

Decision Making

The timescale for determining Estate Management applications will replicate the existing planning system, which is eight weeks from receipt of a valid application and fee, but hopefully much quicker in the majority of cases.

Decisions on Estate Management applications will be made independently of any planning applications.

Refusal and the Appeal Process

The timescale for applicants to appeal where they have been refused Estate Management Scheme consent will replicate the existing planning system, which is six months from the date of refusal. As with the current planning system, only the applicant can appeal the refusal.

As currently happens, if applicants do appeal a refusal, a report will be written by officers and presented to the Estate Management Appeals Panel (EMAP) to be considered by elected councillors. The Panel meets about four times per year. There will be no further recourse for the applicant or any other party if EMAP upholds the original decision of refusal.

Breaches and Enforcement

The Estate Management team (in conjunction with the Head of Planning) have delegated authority to take action against beaches and to initiate arbitration.  Officers will report progress on the negotiation of breaches to EMAP as Part II private and confidential items.  Officers will use EMAP to seek general guidance on the sorts of breaches that elected councillors would like to see tackled with most priority.  Officers will report the outcome of arbitration cases to EMAP as Part I public items.

Estate Management officers will consider adding a charge to the title where properties have breached the Scheme but have not rectified that breach.

As per the current arrangement described in the EMS Green Booklet, where a breach to a freehold property cannot be resolved through negotiation, an arbitrator will be appointed by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to consider the breach. It is stated that whoever loses the arbitration must pay the costs of both parties and the arbitrator’s fee. This is in the order of £3,000 per case. The Estate Management team will consider the merits of taking early arbitration action against a variety of breaches (hardstanding, hedge removal, etc) to get better understand of how RICS are likely to judge such breaches. Success will offer reassurance that the Council can continue to take arbitration. Failure will indicate that arbitration is unlikely to be successful, and by virtue that the policy/guidance needs to be amended.

There will be no time limited for the Estate Management team to deal with breaches of the Scheme. This means that officers can seek to resolve even very historic breaches in order to maintain and improve the distinctiveness of the garden city.

It is anticipated that Estate Management officers will be out-and-about visiting properties to provide pre-application advice and to determine applications. As part of site visits they will also be able to monitor the area more generally and identify whether any new breaches have occurred. This will mean they can be pro-active to speak to property owners/tenants where a breach has occurred, is occurring or looks like it is about to occur, to remind them of the Estate Management Scheme rules and the need for apply for permission and secure consent before carrying out any works.

Other Estate Management Officer Responsibilities

The Estate Management team will consider promotional efforts such as writing to every property in the pink area to remind them of the Estate Management Scheme rules affecting their property and to highlight examples of good and bad projects.

Estate Management officers will regularly contact local estate agents

The Estate Management team will ensure that there is regular publicity and press releases about the Scheme so that residents, estate agents and others remain aware.

The Estate Management team will consider the creation of an award scheme to recognise the very best examples of changes to properties in the Estate Management Scheme area.


Page updated: 20/05/2019

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