Planning Forum meeting November 2012: some feedback

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On Tuesday, November 6th, was organised the Planning Forum at Wandsworth Borough Town Hall. You will find below some comments and feedback. They do not intend to replace any minutes and are obviously my own views of the meeting (and comments in red).

First of all, lets start with the AOB section that was actually addressed at the end of the meeting. A few weeks ago I emailed the meeting secretary asking to add three points.
1- The dates of the planning forum
Despite the words of Cllr Cuff in September 2010 to have a meeting every 3 months, I see we are back to more than 1 year… on the trend to having a meeting organised every 2 years such as in 2007-2009 maybe?

  1. 13th November 2007
  2. April the 7th 2009 – 17 months after
  3. November, 10th 2009 – 7 months after
  4. Thursday September, 23rd 2010 – 10 months after —- Councillor Nick Cuff  not anymore every 6 months, or 1 year, or even 2 years, it will be in less than 3 months!
  5. Wednesday, January 19th 2011 – 4 months after
  6. Thursday, July 12th 2011 – 6 months after
  7. Tuesday, October 18th 2011 – 3months after
  8. Tuesday, November 6th 2012 – 13 months after!

According to my record, the date planned after October 2011’s meeting should have been in January 2012. The reason why to wait for the Neighbourhood Plan bill which was still discussed in parliament.
Royal Assent Royal Assent was given on 15 November, 2011…
Although it seems complicated, did Wandsworth Council take 12 months to read and understand the paper? I asked Cllr Cuff the reason for such a delay… none… “I was rather surprised it has been so long” did he reply.
Next meeting is planned for Tuesday 26 February 2013. Will it slip to 2014?
2- Explanation on the Design Review Panel which is now consulted during planning application
According to Cllr Cuff, the Design Review Panel has new recruited about 14 different members (such as town planners, architects, urban developers, ….etc). They are meant to listen to the developers during a presentation+Q&A meeting, and later publish a letter with their views on the proposal. Cllrs and officers can attend as observers.
According to WBC website their first meeting was on Thursday 19th April 2012 and Peabody, Indigo consulting and Hawkins architects where invited to present to Peabody redevelopment. On November 6th 2012 there was still no minute available, no letter of recommendation published as part of the presentation documents for the consultation on Peabody’s proposal. Cllr Cuff said that no Society or other resident group will be able to attend or commentThat’s what we call a meeting behind closed doors!
On p157 of the officers report on 18th July 2012 you can read : “Concerns have been raised, including by the design review panel”… but rejected by the officer!
According to the assistant director for planning they will make sure this is available for the future as part of the planning application representations.
3- Consultation process
There is a greater issue on the consultation process and little consideration given to local residents. I asked for the opinion of Cllrs and officers.
We had 2 recent cases were CJAG was involved and objected:
a) Major planning: Peabody redevelopment
According to the officer’s report (18th July 2012) 1500-2000 newsletters were delivered to residents in the area. The Council received more than 300 different letters of objection (and 4 supports!). Still Cllr John Hallmark wrote to CJAG’s supporters: “Councillors are elected to make decisions for the whole Borough of 303,000 people – not just 300 or so objectors.
Objection from groups and societies:

  1. Northcote Ward Councillors
  2. Clapham Junction Action Group
  3. Wandsworth Society
  4. Wandsworth Green Party
  5. Wandsworth Conservation Areas Advisory Committee
  6. Victorian Society

Result: no mention of the level of objection during the 2 hours meeting when the officers were in charge of advocating the case for granting permission (Cllr Johnson was allowed to speak for 5 minutes at the beginning to object… and then shut up!)
Planning granted (3 voted against, not 4 as Cllr Cuff remembers!)
b) Small application for house extension: 35 St John’s Hill Grove
According to the officer’s report, 10 neighbours were consulted, 7 objections were received.
Objection from groups and societies:

  1. the Wandsworth Conservation Areas Advisory Committee (10th September 2012)
  2. the Battersea Society (22nd August 2012)
  3. the Clapham Junction Action Group (26th August 2012)
  4. the Wandsworth Society (30th August 2012)

Result: not even discussed during the Planning Application meeting, planning granted immediately. Cllr Vanessa Graham is chair of the WCAAC and member of the planning committee, and elected Cllr of the ward; she has not raised her hand!
Cllr Cuff said that: a) letters were only a small portion of the ward, b) they might repeat the same arguments, c) Councillors take decision  in respect of the whole borough.
Which could mean a) it does not count if less that 3000 letters, b) all letters must present different arguments (3000 different arguments?)  and c) well, actually resident opinions don’t count.
Although in some cases objections does give ammunition to officers to build a case against developers. Really?
Regarding the agenda of the meeting, topics were:
A- Localism Bill
The House of Commons considered Lords amendments to the Localism Bill on Monday 7 November 2011 and Royal Assent Royal Assent given 15 November, 2011.
You will find fill detail of the bill HERE.
There is no much to say except that according to other amenity society members, this is a waist of time. Conditions are so difficult to meet and the process is so long and time consuming that it is nearly impossible to implement. In addition Wandsworth Council consent is necessary anyway. Officers’ papers say for example: “The Council has to consider the application [to become a neighbourhood forum] [… an] required to publicise its decision. [It can refuse permission]. […] Neighbourhood Plans cannot for example be used to restrict the quantum of development in an area“.
B- Local Plan Update
Current consultation (see WBC website).
C- Community Infrastructure Levy
CIL will replace section 106 for most of developers’ contributions (section 106 is restricted to bus stops moves, affordable houses…etc). Contribution is made by:

  1. London Mayor: £50/sqm (except education and health)
  2. WBC: £250/sqm (residential) for developments in excess of 100 sqm (except conversion of houses into flats, and different CIL for Nine Elms and Rohampton area).

Next meeting: Tuesday 26 February 2013

Disclaimer: Cyril Richert was representing the Clapham Junction Action Group at the Council’s meeting

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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.