Peabody: How officers mislead the councillors

2 mins read

Author: Cyril Richert
You probably heard that Peabody’s proposal was approved on Wednesday following planning officer’s recommendation (our report here). You might also have seen our open letter published a few days before the meeting, explaining in detail to the members the the report was flawed and did not meet the Policy DMS1 (lack of integration and daylight impact), DMS4 (justification for tall buildings), DMPD (para 2.49 – visual documents), DMH1 (affordable housing), DMT1 (traffic).
Then you might be interested to hear that the head of planning mislead the Committee members, and not only once, but twice!
1- The wording of the motion was invalid
The head of planning (or assistant director – I’m lost with titles) proposed a wording for the motion for refusal. If this motion was approved, it would have given the reason for refusal. THIS MOTION WAS FLAWED!
The wording proposed by the officer was:

The Council is not satisfied by the development proposed and failure of the tests from Policy DMS3 by virtue of inappropriate height, bulk and massing on the brow of the hill, over-bearing impact on Comyn Road and Eckstein Road, inappropriate visual impact on St Johns Hill and Brighton Yard and insufficient quality on the architectural merit of an unprecedented height proposed in Clapham Junction.

The problem is: Policy DMS3 refers to sustainability (good heating system, etc…). If it went for appeal, the reason would have been invalid as the scheme actually demonstrates enough effort on sustainability and was not criticized on that ground. It should have been Policy DMS4: Tall buildings.
We have demonstrated in our document (sent in advance to the Committee) that the scheme failed on most of the tests set for granting approval in policy DMS4.
Ok, some say that it is irrelevant because the motion was rejected. But this is still GROSS MISLEADING! I am very confused to see that we know better the Council’s own policy than the officers. How can they be trusted on them?
2- The councillors were told they cannot object on traffic: Wrong!
The Head of planning told the members of the cabinet:

“Traffic is NOT suitable  grounds for refusal of the application since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework on 27th March this year . It is very unlikely that any application would be accepted for appeal on transport grounds, unless the transport implications are significant. I think we heard not withstanding express feeling in the room that we had technical evidence, assessments and adequate capacity in the network, and I think eventually even with a greater occupancy they would not be significant”.

This is incorrect to say the least. Not dismissing that transport can be be set as a reason for refusal along with other reasons, the responses to the consultation (7th July 2012/p16) on the  National Planning Policy Framework says:

“councils need to take account of the cumulative impact of development on the transport system when assessing applications”

Last but not least, and most important, whatever is the advice of officers (and it can be deeply flawed as demonstrated above) Councillors have a duty to consider the views of the people they represent (300 people bothered to write letters and object, does it count for nothing?). It was clearly not the case.
The Council has failed and this is a disgrace!

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CJI editor and Clapham Junction Action Group co-founder and coordinator since 2008, Cyril has lived in Clapham Junction since 2001.
He is also funder and CEO of Habilis-Digital Ltd, a digital agency creating and managing websites and Internet solutions.