The Solar Planning System

Posted by Keith Lancaster on

No, I have not gone mad. Nor is it April Fool's Day before you reach for the calendar. Planning has often been considered as dark matter in recent years not least by politicians of various political hue but, have you ever heard of astronomical geometrical image analysis?

Probably not. Nor had I.

That was until a rather unusual dichotomy of fact arose in the course of a mundane planning enforcement appeal involving unauthorised windows. Establishing the immunity period was critical to the success of the appeal.

How many times have aerial or street view images been produced evidencing the existence of something at a certain time? Or, other photographs? And, more importantly, how many times do those photographs go unchallenged?

Have you ever asked, is the 'image date' reference or watermark robust or, what is the metadata embedded in the photograph? This is the position that arose due to conflicting images in the appeal. The appellant's images contained metadata suggesting one date and the Council's images showed an alternative approximate date from an equally independent source.

However, if any of those images are taken on a sunny day, show a fixed point of reference and its shadow it may be possible to corroborate the date of that photograph to within minutes. How? Knowledge of the solar system and analytical computer software based on internationally agreed astronomical measurements.

The great benefit of this type of analysis is that the results, unless some manifest human error can be proved, are extremely robust. Especially where the legal threshold to be proved is 'on the balance of probabilities'. Unless the opposing side can call Galileo as expert witness to prove planetary assumptions are flawed it would be hard for a decision maker to reach an alternative view about the evidence.

Anyone whose planning need involves evidential matters, whether dealing with certificates of lawfulness, appeals, inquiries or court proceedings, should take note. Success really could rest in the 'stars' and we have the knowledge!

About the Author

Photograph of Keith Lancaster

Keith specialises in planning law, advising in major projects and infrastructure, energy and renewables in the commercial, industrial and residential sectors.

Keith Lancaster
Email Keith
0207 814 5447

View profile