David Cameron is told that Wandsworth Council’s planning procedures and ‘localism’ practice have failed

2 mins read

Author: Cyril Richert

Wandsworth London Borough Council is named in an ‘Open Letter’ to David Cameron showing major failures in its planning procedures, and calling for the Prime Minister to set up an urgent independent review.

The Putney Society, Wandsworth Society, the Clapham Junction Action Group and Friends of Putney Common community group have all written to the Prime Minister to express their concerns at the way Wandsworth Council has dealt with a number of important planning applications, in the context of published planning policy documents and guidelines.

“The issues which concern us all are the fairness and legitimacy of Wandsworth Council’s planning procedures. Planning decisions frequently breach local and national policies and guidelines and, in recent years, there have been too many examples of bad practice for this to be ignored.”

Many residents have lost faith in the fairness and impartiality of the planning procedures used by Wandsworth Council. We have attempted to engage with the Council to get them to follow their own local and also national policies, but to no avail. Our analysis of recent planning decisions makes damning reading. We hope that the Prime Minister, who has always supported Localism personally and as Prime Minister, will respond to our appeal for an urgent review of what is going wrong in Wandsworth.

In a hard-hitting letter addressed personally to David Cameron the group of Wandsworth amenity societies and community groups have combined to call for a review of planning procedures in the Borough of Wandsworth.

We cite the issues which concern them as representatives of the residents of Wandsworth which stretches from Battersea in the East to Putney in the West and which is the largest Borough in London. We say that planning decisions made by the Council and its officers frequently breach local and national policies and guidelines, and that recently there have been far too many examples of bad practice to be ignored, as shown in our detailed report to the Prime Minister included with our letter.

The report sets out numerous examples of policies agreed in the Local Plan which have been blatantly circumvented or swept aside. What is more, they show that in many cases objections made by many individual local residents are just undervalued and discounted.

Wandsworth Council has been guilty of ignoring policies and guidelines related to key planning concerns: General Development Principles, Managing the Historic Environment, Tall Buildings, Methods of Visual Representation, Supplementary Planning as it relates to Housing, Affordable Housing, Conservation and Heritage matters, Residential Properties, Transport and Offices, and Consultation.

The letter goes on to point out that however impressive the Local Plan related to planning and development might seem on paper, the guidelines and policies enshrined in that document are useless if they are consistently ignored by the Council. The adopted Local and Planning Policies are only treated as loose guidelines which can be ignored at will, as the case studies described in the report sent to the Prime Minster clearly demonstrate.

In calling for the Prime Minister to set up an urgent independent review the letter says:

“Your government has rightly placed localism at the heart of the agenda for reforming local government practices, and indeed you have said you are a “confirmed localist”. When launching your party’s local government campaign in Nuneaton last year you rightly criticised the “top down, target-driven, big bossy, bureaucratic, we know best arrogance” of some local authorities and declared that this had been “turned upside down.” The detailed information provided with this letter unfortunately shows clearly that Wandsworth Borough Council is falling far short in putting localism into practice in its planning procedures. It has failed to listen to its residents and the groups that represent them, on numerous occasions.

We are therefore requesting that an independent review into Wandsworth’s planning arrangements is set up urgently to trigger the necessary change. “

  • [ You can download the full report HERE]

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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.


  1. I think there must be some corruption going on in the Wandsworth planning department. A big loft extension and roof terrace development has been approved next door, pushed through very quickly, overlooking our garden and lounge window and blocking our sunlight, yet we never received any planning notification as direct neighbours. Fraud by non-disclosure as far as I can tell. I wrote to my Councillors to complain two weeks ago but no response as yet.

  2. Really interested to read your article/letter. We are currently campaigning for Saving the Romany Scout Site which has a restrictive covenant on the land which allows no building and it is to be used for recreation and play, to be an open space until 2100.
    The owners Magdalen Park Lawn Tennis Club are in discussion with a property developer who wants to build a large private nursery. The trustees of the covenant are WBC!!
    I would be delighted if you could contact me.

  3. Wandsworth are rotten through and through in the late 80’s they colluded with lawyers and architects to knock down a factory and a terraced house to appropriate the land for themselves ruining the lives of the owners no justice could be brought as no lawyer would take on the council

  4. We bought our freehold for our flat from the council but they slapped a covenant on it which they will only lift for 100k plus. Quite a few householders have needed to pay this in order to do any further developments.

    • Are you talking about Wandsworth Council? Where are the properties?
      In theory the price of freehold is regulated so the owner cannot ask for any ridiculous/enormous amount. I assume a convenant would be part of a freehold purchase and therefore would reduce the cost of the freehold and can be lifted under certain conditions for a price that is within the boundaries of a freehold without convenant.
      In an article published by the Guardian, they indeed talk about £100k fine but because of a breach of convenant, not to lift it up:
      Did your anyone got the advice of a lawyer?
      If the only intention is to make money out of owners, the practice should be judged illegal…

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