Tuesday, 24 December 2013
Down among the mince pies
Well, here we are – Merry Christmas! (as the song goes) – the end of another busy year.
We are all still digesting the important changes in planning law and procedure that have taken place in the past year, with more to come in 2014. But those on which I have not yet commented in this blog will have to wait now until the New Year.
Readership of the blog was artificially inflated earlier in the year by ‘bots’ that were designed to plant spam comments (mainly as a means of securing free advertising for other websites) until we reached a ridiculous total of more than 49,000 monthly page views before we pulled the plug on the spammers. Readership has since settled down to between 25,000 and 30,000 page views a month, and this tempts me to consider the possibility of including paid advertising on the site, but it could spoil the page design and has various other disadvantages, so I am not yet convinced that it would be a good idea, although it would certainly generate revenue.
The readership statistics give an interesting insight into the topics that are of major concern to readers, most of whom come to the blog by keyword searching on the internet. By far the largest number of page views is on the subject of ‘curtilage’. The piece I wrote on ‘Curtilage Confusion’ on 25 January 2011 has so far attracted a total of 21,128 page views (and this relates only to that original piece – no doubt many of the readers accessing that item went on to look at the other articles I subsequently wrote on this topic). It is an issue that has also generated more individual queries than any other, which only serves to reinforce my view that we would be a great deal better off if the concept of ‘curtilage’ were to be entirely removed from planning legislation, to be replaced in future by the ‘planning unit’ (a different concept, but one which is much more easily understood and therefore more readily identified in particular cases).
The second most popular blog post is an article I wrote on 11 July 2011 on ‘Agricultural dwellings and other houses in the countryside’, which has been viewed 10,390 times. Clearly there are a lot of people who would like to live in the countryside, and who find themselves frustrated by agricultural occupancy conditions and by the rules that apply to applications for new dwellings in the countryside. I am afraid I can’t offer them much comfort in most cases, but there is clearly a good deal of pent-up demand, the full extent of which may be revealed if the government introduces permitted development rights for barn conversions (and for the residential conversion or replacement of other agricultural buildings by homes) next Spring, as proposed.
This seems to be confirmed by the number of page view there have been for the piece I wrote on this proposal, entitled ‘Barn conversions to be permitted development’, on 13 August 2013, which has received 3,387 page views so far, making it the fifth most popular post on this blog.
The third most popular blog post is a puzzle to me. It is a comment on ‘Powers of entry and RIPA’ posted on 7 February 2012. I have a bizarre vision of members of the criminal fraternity desperately researching this subject on the internet. If that is what is causing the apparent popularity of this item, then I am afraid they are likely to have been disappointed, as the piece simply discussed some of the evidential aspects of planning enforcement.
Another post that has attracted a substantial number of page views (4,418 to date) is ‘Office to residential – the new right to change of use, published on 19 May 2013. The enthusiastic take-up of these new permitted development rights has surprised many, and has alarmed a number of local planning authorities. It remains controversial, and it is clear that some councils are determined to frustrate or delay these residential conversions for as long as they can (bearing in mind that they must be completed before 30 May 2016), but it remains to be seen in light of appeal decisions, the first of which are likely to be issued in the near future, whether these conversions can be successfully resisted.
There is clearly a substantial appetite among the public for general advice and guidance on planning issues, and I hope that this blog will continue to provide useful help on the subject. One or more books may follow, and I am currently working on the first such book, with a view to publication within the next year.
So have a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year, and I hope you will continue to find material in the blog that is interesting and informative and which helps, to some extent, to explain the mysteries of the planning system.
© MARTIN H GOODALL