Sir - Craven District Council's decision to refuse planning permission for the proposed holiday complex at Hellifield is most welcome, as Councillor Andy Brown says in his letter (April 4). However, he goes on to criticise national planning law on a number of issues, saying it isn’t so logical, fair or reasonable. In fact, the law is not as bleak from objectors’ point of view as he makes out.

He is correct in saying that objectors have no right of appeal against a grant of planning permission. However, anyone can ask for a planning application to be called-in for determination by the Secretary of State. In the Hellifield Flashes case, a lot of objectors had asked for the application to be called in if the council had been minded to approve it. I’m confident it would have been called in and there would have been a public inquiry. If the applicant appeals against the council’s refusal of planning permission, the appeal would undoubtedly result in a public inquiry so objectors would have plenty of scope to have their views taken into consideration.

As for the indefinite preservation of an old planning permission because a start was made, that is not necessarily the end of the matter. There is provision in the Town and Country Planning Act (Section 94) for the local planning authority to serve a completion notice. This would require the development to be finished by a certain time. Failure to comply with a Completion Notice means that the planning permission becomes invalid (section 95).

A notional start was made years ago on the development permitted on the Flashes site and that has preserved the planning permission indefinitely. However, the lack of any further work suggests very strongly that the development itself is not viable.

Circumstances have changed so much in the years since that planning permission was granted that it is now more appropriate that the site remains undeveloped. Instead of the permission hanging over the site like a sword of Damocles, the council should serve a Completion Notice. I doubt that any developer would come forward to complete the permitted development and the result would be that the permission would become invalid. No compensation is payable to anyone served with a Completion Notice because it is their choice whether or not to complete the development.

The other way of getting rid of a planning permission is to revoke it, but compensation is payable and a Revocation Order can only be served if the development has not commenced, so that process does not apply in this case.

So now that the council’s planning department is back up to strength and has avoided being put into special measures, as also reported in the Craven Herald of April 4, it’s time for them to do something to remove the uncertainty regarding the Hellifield Flashes site. There are procedures to follow but a Completion Notice offers a fairly simple solution. Perhaps if enough people write in to the Planning Department, they will get on with it and solve this problem once and for all.

David Pinner

Park Avenue