The past is a foreign country

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”, wrote L P Hartley.

At this time of year it is not uncommon to become a bit reflective, musing on all the changes, good and bad, that have occurred over the previous twelve months. Looking back much further than a year, it seems that things were done significantly differently in planning from how they are done now. See whether you think the change is for the better or the worse.

In an appeal against the refusal of a certificate to confirm the lawful commencement of residential development in Norfolk, first granted planning permission in 1966, the appellant argued that during the 1960s reliance was placed upon public professionals and their word, not paperwork, and there was no such thing as a certificate of a start (DCS Number 400-020-369).

The appellant had engaged a chartered surveyor, the inspector recorded, to produce a report which described the practice of the day as being for officers of local planning authorities to witness starts to planning permissions. An inspection did not result in any paperwork. This was verified in a witness statement from a retired town planner who had been a trainee with Norwich City Council during the 1960s. He recalled that, at that time, a ‘start’ might occasionally be noted down for internal use, but he described it as an age when one’s word was good enough.

“Things may well have been done differently then”, said the inspector “but that does not help the appellant discharge the burden of proof”, ruling that assumptions as to what happened were not enough. The appeal was dismissed.

Further information on keeping permissions alive can be found at section 6.34 of DCP Online.