Professional Indemnity Insurance For Town Planners
As a town planning consultant, your job is to help shape the future of towns and that often means needing to work with a client to help them realise a particular agenda. If they feel that the outcome doesn't meet the agreed criteria, they may decide to lodge a complaint against you and attempt to claim financial recompense as a result. The same is likely to occur if a client, or other third party, suffers an injury that is proven to have been caused by your negligence when planning and overseeing work on a project. Because of examples like these, it is always a good idea to have professional indemnity insurance and the Royal Town Planning Institute strongly recommends that all planners have such protection. Depending on your circumstances, the Royal Town Planning Institute stated in 2015 that the minimum cover required was based upon your company's previous year's income. If your gross income was below £40,000, then the minimum cover was £100,000 for each claim; for gross incomes between £40,000 and £200,000, the minimum cover was two and a half times the income of the company; and for gross income over £200,000, the minimum cover was £500,000 for every claim. There were maximum stipulated policy excesses (ie the sum you would be expected to meet out of your own pocket) and run-off cover, whilst not obligatory in all cases, was strongly recommended. These policies can of course change and you may wish to check the latest recommendations before proceeding.
Town planning - what is the worst that can happen?
Town planners are considered akin to Gods by some people; well, at least those who happen to spend their entire existence across a 20 mile radius. After all, they control the air, water and land we use. They"re the people we blame for local house prices going down, for our children getting fat and for making us late for work every morning. However ambitious and brilliant their town schemes may be or how great our cities may be as compared to others, they"re rarely considered to be good enough.
The talented youngsters of our day don't really put "town planner" at the top of their career ambitions, and there aren't really that many approved courses for town planners, in reality. As commerce has taken over society, many town planners employed by local authorities have more of a managerial background than a creative one.
Yet, if we want our cities to thrive and grow, town planners must do the fighting for us. It's a matter of balancing private capital, local interests and esthetics, and whenever any of these values outweighs the others, something is bound to go wrong.
Here's a list of a few examples of just such cases, where money, taste, or people got in the way of making towns better.
Don't Press That Button
An electronic voting system shouldn't really be so complicated, should it? After all, it's either yea or nay, and how hard can it be to press the right button when you"re asked to cast a vote. Well, a councillor of the Ryedale District mistook the "yea" for a "nay" and consequently granted permission for 260 dwellings to be built on farmland.
After publicly opposing the development, which, by his own admission, would stand out like a sore thumb, the councillor pressed the wrong button and tilted the vote in favour of the planning application, the BBC reports.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
If you happen to be strolling by the People's Daily Building in Beijing, be sure to shield your children's eyes as you move around it, unless you"re willing to give them a lesson in male anatomy. Not that we"re not nitpicky, but the building's phallic shape doesn't really seem to blend in, and The Guardian seems to agree. The more anal of us would even say that the town planners must have wanted to couple this penile erection (and by that we mean penis-shaped building) to the OMA CCTV headquarters in Beijing, which is said to look like "a giant pair of underpants", according to the same source. Perhaps even more bizarre is the fact that the Wuliangye building received permission to be built even though it's just an oversized bottle facing the statues of a woman and a gilded lion. But even if you think beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you"d undoubtedly ask the architects behind the LV building in Shanghai to change their specs, if you ever laid eyes on it.
You"d think that a developing country's concern for its healthcare and education system outweighs its need for flashy churches, but think again. In Romania, there are over 18,000 churches and only 4,500 schools and 368 hospitals. You"d also think clerics would have said: "I"d rather forgo my parish and build a hospital", by now, but you"d be wrong. Nearly every theology graduate wants to have his own parish, so churches are springing up by the minute. What does that have to do with town planning?
The government, siding with the faithful elderly, who represent the voting majority in an aging country whose youngsters can't afford to have more than one child, is dishing out building permits like there's no tomorrow. It's eager to have the churches built, and planning permission is a breeze for priests. So much so, in fact, that land belonging to the People's House (the parliamentary palace built by Ceausescu), was handed over to the Romanian Orthodox Church, so that it may build a gargantuan church. Not only will it tower over the parliamentary building, but it aims to seat 5,000 believers many of whom will probably have passed away anyway by the time it's erected.
The working people obviously consider it outrageous, especially as Bucharest already has a cathedral, and the country as a whole already has a patriarchal cathedral, to begin with. In spite of the taxpayers" pleas and protests, the project is going ahead, Deutsche Welle reports, for a whopping 200 million euro.
Online town-planning gone awry
Town planning blunders aren't reserved for councillors and architects. In 2013, designers of the online video game SimCity had to apologize for not allowing its users to build when and what they wanted unless they were online and active while they did it. Virtual territory is just as valuable as real plots of land to some people, and just as in real life, enraged builders have found themselves in the quagmire as they wait for permission to build. What can you expect, with owners Electronic Arts playing the omniscient local council?
BT's Hitchin hiccup
After spending a fortune to make a planning application for a phone cabinet in Hitchin, BT finds itself up the creek without a paddle. According to The Comet, the planning application was for an ugly DSLM cabinet to be placed in Hitchin Market Place right slap in front the cabbies" hut, a beautiful old building of considerable historical interest which was placed there and lovingly restored by a local historical society. Oddly enough, the High Street already had a DSLM cabinet, which BT didn't seem to be aware of.
When planners don't see eye to eye
Dealing with one town planning scheme is hard enough, but dealing with 14 of them is unbearable. According to a South-African online newspaper, the city of Johannesburg was in a pickle when five industry bodies set out to have the 2011 consolidated scheme changed. The scheme is a mash-up of 14 different documents, mostly dating from the 80s and 90s, and covering different jurisdictions. Industry bodies claim it to be inconsistent, with contradictory definitions which will prevent builders from making development plans. Alterations, rezoning and valuation are also areas that the document doesn't address coherently. Despite this the scheme, which they believe to be "legally incompetent" was still published and is to be used to guide all future development in the city. The CEO of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry has claimed that objections had been blatantly ignored, whilst experts viewed it as a colossal blunder and a reason for years of future delay and chaos over implementation of the building laws.
To park or not to park, that is the question
The Brighton and Hove City Council granted developers permission a few years ago to convert a three-storey building into 3 flats, provided 2 of the 3 residents didn't own cars. Thanks to an administrative error, however, residents were not told this until six years after they had actually moved in, The Argus reports. Because of the restriction the car-free flats were sold at a lower price than similar dwellings, but rather than face a legal challenge the council has decided to waive it. The owners of the (hitherto) car-free flats may be very happy about their discount; the developers perhaps less so.
The no-nonsense ombudsman
There's not much to be said for extensions, these days. You spend months building them and then the councils take them away. Now you see them, now you don't. At least, that's the way it was for a resident of Bolton Council, which found his planning permission for a two-storey extension didn't really comply with local planning policies, although a local official had granted his application. His permit has been retracted on the instructions of an ombudsman; a little late, unfortunately, since it had already been built. The council was instructed to pay the owner of the neighbouring property over £30,000 as compensation for being deprived of a view of the moors. Another local had her planning application granted and then retracted by the same ombudsman but in this case before she started building; lucky her!
When councils lead you down the garden path
Cornwall Council approved an office scheme and told the developer that he could start building, but omitted to inform him that a certain footpath running through the site would need further approvals, the Planning Resource website reveals. The footpath diversion order lead to no fewer than 13 objections, meaning the case had to be handled by the Planning Inspectorate. Consequently, the construction was put on hold for two years and the developer incurred costs of more than £50,000. The council ended up paying the businessman half that amount as compensation.
Take care with rubber-stamps
Residents in Kelty, in Fife were enraged when they were affected by new housing developments which breached local planning conditions. As a new development was similar to a previous one which had been approved, the local planners saw it fit to draw up a new one. Sure enough, local councillors approved the next one, even though it towered over older dwellings. With more than 20 homes affected by this ill-fated decision, a lot of ratepayers weren't particularly thrilled with their new buildings, a local newspaper reports.
Fife Council was rumoured to be paying out £17,000 to each affected household in compensation. Ratepayers wouldn't have been terribly happy about that either.