John Pardey's Oaklands School project has finally won approval two years after planning proposals were first drawn up, prompting Pardey to declare the UK planning system, 'utterly bankrupt.'
The Oaklands scheme plans to transform a Grade-II listed school in St Albans, Hertfordshire, into 40 one and two-bedroom flats, but it has been delayed by what Pardey has called a system that 'lacks any common sense'.
Pardey told the AJ, 'I cannot understand how planning has got into this state. The planning system is utterly bankrupt. They do not question mass-produced homes, but if you try to come up with something with a little more design, you hit problems.
'I am currently working in Ireland, and it's fantastic. You can actually sit and talk to the planners, over here you never get to talk to them. It's madness.'
The scheme hopes to 'echo' the seven listed buildings on the site, which is now mainly empty, and Pardey believes the best way of securing the buildings is to give them a new use.
It was hoped that the project would be on site by June 2005, but more than a year has gone by since, and Pardey believes the planning system is at the root of all the delays.
'There's no trust left in the system, and it's unlikely this will ever change, you just have to carry on. It needs deregulating. For smaller developments like this, planners have no place - they have nothing to do with design,' he said.
But now with approval following the public inquiry, Pardey hopes the project will start on site as soon as possible. by Richard Vaughan