New era or continuity for the Planning Forum? The future will decide but so far the most visible change was a new Chair, as Cllr Sweet as been replaced by Cllr Guy Humphries (due to the last cabinet reshuffle) and probably the most relevant change was actually the proposal to have Community Groups involved within the draft of the next Local Plan through workshop(s).
Cllr Guy Humphries, the new chair of the planning forum, opened the meeting by welcoming open dialogue and praising the importance of early and constructive discussions.
53 responses have been received on the Local Plan consultation and about 700 comments (the consultation itself was made of 98 questions!). The analysis is underway and a final statement should reach the committee in June 2020.
A workshop to tackle specific policies/preferred options was proposed by Andrea Kitzberger-Smith, the new Planning Policy and Design Team Manager (coming from Richmond), based on a successful case in Richmond were it was found that the earlier inputs are received the better. The Putney Society (seconded by other members) commented that it was a very positive move. Several questioned were raised regarding the number of necessary meetings and CJAG commented that if it makes an impact surely community groups are ready to allocate more time. The Council staff responded that dedicated time is limited but the way it would work is not yet defined.
A meeting was apparently taking place about the draft document (which should have been released at least 6 months ago). However, the vice-chair of the Tree Wardens said he was unaware of this meeting and thus was very surprised to hear about it.
Based on the Draft document on planning reforms that CJAG had circulated in August 2018, and the invitation to comment reiterated last January, a few responses have been received:
- Wandsworth Society (download): 24/29 May 2019
“We believe the issues raised cover important aspects of the relationship between local societies and Council planners.
We would welcome a better dialogue with officers. We support the principle that public consultation should be improved and agree that:
– a list of recognised local groups should be prepared and that these groups are invited to discuss applications with officers at an early stage;
– representatives from recognised local groups should be given the opportunity to speak at PAC meetings on significant schemes (we support the use of video recording as it is already the case for several London Councils including Richmond, and Southwark).
We hope that in future the Local Plan will have unambiguous policies and will be enforced in making planning decisions. Far too often applications have been approved contrary to our understanding of what should have been allowed.”
- Tonsley Resident Association: email received (15th June 2019) stating
“at this stage we have nothing significant to add though we entirely endorse the excellent letter from Philip Whyte of the Wandsworth Society“.
- Battersea Society (download): 30 June 2019
“We still have concerns about the decision process as follows:
Pre-application discussion: […]It is clear that developers draft proposals in such a way that they at best stretch criteria even if not actively drafting them outwith approved policies, with the intention that the application will be considered favourably by the PAC. As a Society we wish to see decisions in the best long-term interests of the area and founded on clearly articulated and enforced policies.
Reserved matters: […] changes in the number and type of units, massing of blocks and height changes in residential developments should be subject to such scrutiny
[…]we agree that it would be helpful if developers routinely held well publicised exhibitions of their plans –initially and at major stages in phased development. These need to be widely publicised and easily accessible to the public as well as to local interest groups. This is not always the case, with limited publicity and opening times and exhibitions in out of way locations. “
Regarding the extended period that the issue as now been discussed (since May 2018), and as comments have been received over the period, CJAG considered that the matter should be brought to conclusion.
Cllr Guy Humphries agreed that an official response should be provided by the Council.
Although we are disappointed by the lack of support to the many proposals (including having more representation at the Planning Committee meetings and video recording), we note very positively the move suggested at the beginning of this meeting for early involvement of community groups. It seems that Richmond is much more advanced on some aspects regarding openness (video recording in place) and community involvement that Wandsworth Council could endorse.
John Horrocks (representing the Putney Society) asked again if Cllr Cook would attend the meeting as it was suggested… 1 year ago. In the previous meeting a justification for not attending the meeting was that “he couldn’t make it this evening“. This time he was on holidays (sic). We will see next time…
We were also informed that Christine Cook (previously Information and Business Support Team Manager) took over the role of John Stone (who is now retired) as Head of Planning and Transport Strategy. Tim Cronin (Assistant Director Planning and Transport) will also retire this autumn and recruitment to replace him is under-review.