The planning committee this week finally made a decision. It was hard fought and there was a move to defer it again but eventually it was agreed that enforcement actions started up to seven years ago and still not resolved should in fact be dropped and no further action taken.
The fact that actions had been left in abeyance for so long really made me feel the Council had abdicated all moral authority on these matters. It seems patently unfair that people could have committed serious crimes, been sent to prison and released back into society in a shorter time scale than it has taken Hartlepool Council to deal with upvc replacement windows.
The Chairman wanted to delay the decision for a special meting on the Council! I pointed out the issue had already been to full Council and had been referred to the Planning committee. Maybe it was time to stop "Noting the report" and actually do something. The next delaying tactic was to say as there were several members of the Planning Committee absent then the matter was so important it should be delayed until more members could be present. It was pointed out the Committee was quorate and every member had been notified in advance of the agenda. If they didn't want to be involved in the decision then that was up to them.
Finally I managed to get the motion on the table. That Hartlepool Council take no further action on outstanding enforcement issues relating to replacement upvc windows in conservation areas. A huddle of Council Officers ensued and the proviso was added that this would create no precedent and would refer only to actions on the list submitted to the Committee that day. Once the new rules were agreed then there would be a clean slate to start and subsequent actions would not be pre-determined by this decision which was purely based on the unreasonable length of time these actions had been outstanding.
The motion passed, by the narrowest of margins (5 to 3). Hopefully those people who have faced every Christmas since March 2001 without knowing if they were going to be prosecuted or see in Christmas through boarded up windows will be able to relax this year.
I am not anti-conservation but I do believe people should be able to have warm, dry, draft proof homes. Anyone who has lived on the headland will agree that the wind can really rattle the windows when it gets going. Of course as one Councillor said "The group who think we should all still live in caves won't be pleased" and I know what he means, for too many people conservation means keeping things exactly as they are, changing nothing, stopping progress. If you apply that logic then our first mistake was building anything in the first place, after all a mud hut was a step up from a burrow or a cave and no doubt there were people then who complained about all these new fangled ideas. A cave was good enough for granddad, it should be good enough for us.