Planning Forum meeting: some feedback

3 mins read

Author: Cyril Richert
On Tuesday (November, 10th), was organised the semi-annual Planning Forum at Wandsworth Borough Town Hall. As usual the meeting was chaired by Councillor Leslie McDonnell, Chairman of Planning Committee, with Tony McDonald, Head of Development Control, John Horrocks (Putney Society), Harvey Heath (Battersea Society), Julia Matcham (CJAG and responsibilities in resident associations), Monica Tross (Wandsworth Society)… etc (I am getting slowly familiar with names, so apology for those I did not name here).
Minutes from the meeting should be available on the Council’s website, but last minutes (6 months ago) are still not available. Below are my own comments.
The meeting started with comments on the previous forum. It gave me the occasion to ask again why there is no proper use of Brightside to display information on major applications, or at least major developments coming in the borough. WBC is perfectly capable of selecting what are the major applications is the Borough Planner, Tony McDonald, explained that the level of publicity is defined by importance of the development, from minor alteration (a loft conversion?) to a major development area. As it was said that the Council rely on the local newspaper to publicised the application, I suggested that Brightside could be used for – let say 1/2 page – informing on current/forthcoming major  application. It was eventually said that it is up to the editor to decide what place to consider, beside a problem with time-scale for publishing information (the period of consultation is usually 2 weeks!). Surely for major development the consultation last several months and there should be plenty of time.
Conclusion of the Council Officer: it is as good as it is, nothing more will be done (no room for improvement!) Ah, I forgot: in the meeting in April, Tim Cronin said: “”if you register on the planning portal, you will be able to log-in and access information on any change of policy“. Therefore you will appreciate the current answer on the website:

Service Update
The ‘Register Area of Interest’ web pages are temporarily unavailable.

Should we launch a campaign to have the right of being properly informed? I will definitely follow up on this topic.
The agenda was as follow:-

Section 106

Tony McDonald explained the obligation for developers to fullfill the 106 agreement and said that, for example for the Clapham Junction station redevelopment it was not enough. I asked then if the planning would have been welcomed with more money. He vehemently denied and said that it was one of many reasons.
However, you might recall from our article back in May, that it was the number 1 reason, saying:

“1) The local planning authority is not satisfied that the package provides sufficient benefit

Therefore, it still looks like money under section 106 (or the lack of sufficient provision) was used at the utmost importance. Therefore I think I will need to get precision on whether they still consider the merit of a scheme can be decided on the quality (quantity?) of section 106.
John Horrocks expressed his concern that the pulic does nto get involved at all in those discussions.
See our article on section 106 HERE.

Nine Elms

Harvey Heath (Battersea Society) distributed a summary of statement, listing key elements according to the Society and asked:

  • What the WBC wants to achieve.
  • What is important for residents, pedestrians.
  • Is it going to become a little Manhattan.
  • What about a consultation?

Tony McDonald replied that albeit WBC officers don’t agree with everything, a lot of comments are good. However it will have to comply with the LDF for the area that is currently being produced (Sites Specific Allocations document).

Local Development Framework

After explaining the consultation process, Martin Howell said that so far 60 presentations have been received (35 since the Inspector asked the WBC to extend the consultation in September). On December, 8th, the pre-hearing will provide guidance and on February 2nd 2010, the WBC and all representatives will be asked to provide statements. Following examination, the Inspector will write a report (April 2010) and the WBC is expected to adopt its strategy by Autumn 2010.
Additional documents will be reviewed separately. The Sites Specific Allocation document will go before the Transport Committee on Monday and the consultation period is expected to last until February 2nd.
The officers have defined 2 criteria for tall buildings:

  1. define when a building is a “tall” building;
  2. define the limit where excess will be considered unlikely.

Documents related are:

  1. Urban Design Study – Tall Buildings
  2. Sites Specific Allocations: from p154 it display maps with colours of preferable heights.

The Site Specific Allocations Document will go to the Inspector in due course, probably 2011.
I raised the topic contained in our joint submission on Tall Buildings, quoting:

Pre-application discussions between developers and Council Members and officials to be minuted and/or recorded and made available to the public recording predictions, understandings and agreements reached between them, the Council’s procedures and negotiations should be transparent.

Tony McDonald replied that those meetings are usually discussions and do not guarantee that a planning application will be requested. Therefore there is no point to publicise them.
However, a lot of people show concerns recently, including Justine Greening MP, saying:

We are being placed in a position of constantly having to object to piecemeal, inappropriate developments that do not address the needs of the local community. […] Finding out what the community wants is actually the best way of making sure that when we get more housing and regeneration it actually works, is something people will want to move into, and that’s in everyone’s interest.

Monica Tross (Battersea Society) said that a good example was shown by the Chelsea Barracks, where a website was set up to consult the community before any planning submission. Battersea (Nine Elms) is just doing the opposite!
No comment from the WBC officers to make any improvement in their process… we will have to recall the subject at the next meeting.
Next meeting: Tuesday 25 May 2010 – 7pm

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