On Wednesday 1st July was organised the Planning Forum meeting. For special times come special meetings and for the first time the meeting was organised fully remote, using Microsoft Team video-conference tool. We had the usual “We lost him“… “We lost him completely now“… “Sorry folks, that’s the technology…” but all in all it was a prolific meeting well organised.
The meeting was chaired by Cllr Guy Humphries, current chair of the Planning Application Committee for Wandsworth and planners were Nick Calder (Head of Development Management), Adam Hutchings (Senior Policy Planner, in charge of the local plan) and Jennifer Jackson (AD Planning & Transport Strategy at Richmond and Wandsworth Councils).
The Wandsworth Borough Council Planning Forum (Planning Forum) is an informal information sharing group which will meet to provide its membership with necessary updates on the planning system in the UK generally and updates on planning matters which are specific to Wandsworth borough without discussing individual cases. The following items were discussed.
Terms of reference
Following the idea raised in the previous meeting by Jennifer Jackson to draft a formal document with Terms of reference for the constitution of the planning forum, the Council circulated a few weeks ago a draft paper. A few comments were made and Mark Poulter (Putney Society & Ernshaw Place Residents) raised the issue of the quality of attendees. The draft paper is currently proposing that only formally constituted organisations could elect (someone suggested “nominate” instead) representatives. However Mr Poulter reminded us that in its origin, anyone could turn up. In recent years, only organisations came, but we should be careful in restricting a meeting when attendencee seems currently limited to less than a dozen people. It was decided to wait for further comments.
Local Plan update
The Mayor is currently changing the London Plan (which was already amended in December 2019 with reduced targets for housing at the horizon of 2028-29). The format of the new Local Plan will be a single document divided into sections, effectively merging the current 4 documents: Core Strategy, DMPD, SSAD and Employment supplementary planning document. The Area Strategy section will group objectives and vision for each specified place.
A submission is planned for early Spring 2022 with an adoption in Summer 2023.
Following a comment from CJAG, Adam Hutchings acknowledged that the plan is currently based on the evidence produced before the pandemic. However, there is currently a massive unknown and the planners anticipate to review the different elements between now and the second stage. As we commented, it questions the meaning of “evidence”, as the COVID19 shows that this might no longer be valid. While the government mantra is currently the same three words: “build, build, build”, objectives set might be different following the covid19 crisis in term of offices, housing and shared space.
Mr Hutchings suggested that local groups could send concerns and elements to “feed [the planners] with ideas“: flexibility on parades, more uses to accommodate…
Consequence of the Covid9 on the planning system
Several measures impacted the planning system:
- More flexibility: a bill from central government extended the permitted hours fro construction: the 6pm limit moved to 9pm during weekdays and the 1pm on Saturday moved to 8pm. Mr Calder confirmed that there was no enforcement from Wandsworth Council unless they received complaints.
- Extension to planning permission: there is a bill planned for parliament to extend permitted development up to April 2021. Permitted developments to add up to 2 storeys are subject to a number of restrictions (not in conservation areas; only constructed between 1 July 1948 and 5 january 2018; final height must be less than 8 storeys/30 meters; external appearance is considered; impact on neighbours and property considered)
- More flexibility is to be offered for public enquiries as the exercise was proven difficult with the coronavirus crisis.
- Automatic change of use to Take Aways worked well.
- Wandsworth Council is looking at new protocols for site visits.
On January 17th 2020 was organised a large workshop to promote community engagement on the future Local Plan. A follow up should be organised. However it is difficult to arrange with the current conditions. In the meantime, Mr Hutchings invited groups to submit comments. The Wandsworth Society has already submitted a response on Area Strategy Review of Town Centre and Wandle Delta.
As you can see, a lot of work on our plate already with comments on a future Term of Reference for the Planning Forum, request for more comments on the future local plan… etc. But in any case, this meeting showed (as all the current Planning Application Committee meetings organised remotely by the Council) that it is perfectly possible to organise video meetings, which Wandsworth Council refused to do for years. Covid19 is changing ways of working rapidly, and sometime with positive effects.
Next meeting sometime in January 2021.