Sometimes the art and science of planning can lie in being able to recognise when something is not quite right. A useful pointer with regard to the assessment of legal evidence can be drawn from a recent appeal against the refusal of a lawful development certificate for the use of adjacent land as a garden extension at a property in County Durham (DCS Number 400-019-049).
The inspector says “Contrary to the appellant’s assertions, the so-called affidavits provided do not appear to constitute statutory declarations as they do not contain the necessary form of wording set out in the Schedule to the Statutory Declarations Act 1835. Furthermore they appear to have been witnessed by a resident of” [the appeal property] “rather than a solicitor or commissioner for oaths. I therefore afford these documents limited weight given that there can be no sanction such as a fine or jail term if found to be untruthful.”
So, while we don’t recommend that you try to usurp the role of a planning lawyer, a useful preliminary test for a statutory declaration is as follows:
Firstly, put “Schedule to the Statutory Declarations Act 1835” in your browser. Skip the bits about church sidesmen, turnpike trusts and pawnbrokers – you probably won’t need that – and go straight to the wording at the bottom. It’s only three lines. Compare and contrast with the wording in front of you. Secondly, check if the document appears to be properly witnessed. Same surname as applicant/appellant or illegibility are not good indicators.
Examples of the use of statutory declarations can be found at section 4.535 of DCP Online.