Councillors have been urged to ‘find their teeth’ when dealing with retrospective planning applications.
Members of Crawley Borough Council’s planning committee aired their frustrations while dealing with two applications from car parking firm NCP.
The company asked permission for a numberplate recognition camera, which had already been installed in the Cross Keys car park, next to St John’s church, in The Broadway, as well as 12 yellow-on-black signs.
The meeting was told that a set of black-on-yellow signs that are already there do not have planning permission – and NCP had been asked to remove the camera six months ago.
Peter Smith (Lab, Ifield) said: “I wonder what on earth they were thinking when they came up with these designs.
“It’s a tiny little car park and they’ve just stuck these garish yellow signs all over the place, right next to the church and in a conservation area.”
The first application was approved by eight votes to six, while the second was unanimously refused, meaning the company does not have advertising consent for the signs.
There was concern from the committee not only that NCP had put up signs and a camera without permission, but also the impact on the Grade II* listed church.
Questions were also asked about the legality of parking fines issued for the tiny, 29-space car park thanks to the camera.
Rory Fiveash (Lab, West Green) said: “People who might have been fined based on evidence gathered from the camera might have grounds to appeal if it was effectively gathered illegally.”
Jean McPherson, of the planning team, told members that this was not a planning issue, rather a civil matter between NCP and drivers involved.
Clearly annoyed with the situation, Brenda Burgess (Con, Three Bridges) asked: “When are we going to find our teeth against retrospective planning? Because we have got to start showing that we mean business.”
Andrew Belben (Con, Pound Hill South & Worth) agreed, adding: “This is not a member of the public who has made a mistake. This is a very big company which has its own legal department, so they know what they are doing.”
The meeting was told that NCP has six weeks to appeal the decision but was legally entitled to put in another application immediately.