Planning Forum meeting July 2011: some feedback

Author: Cyril Richert

On Thursday, July 12th, was organised the Planning Forum [1] 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).

Local Development Framework

Since the last meeting, the Council officers have spent the beginning of the year working on analysing and commenting the responses to the consultation (both comments on the DMPD and  on the SSAD). We have already published an article commenting the direct responses to the concerns raised by CJAG [2].

The documents were submitted to the Secretary of States on May 27th and are now under examination by an independent inspector until the end of the year. It is expected that the examination will take place at the end of September 2011.

The Council is planning to adopt the final policy by Spring 2012.

Enforcement

The amount of enforcement (complaints regarding planning procedure – or lack of planning) has significantly grown in the last years. Some of the most common cases include:

  • Building Work
  • Change of use
  • Untidy land
  • Work to listed buildings

etc.

The government owns advice is to negotiate. If it fails, the local authorities can consider taking enforcement action; however it considers also if it will achieve the purpose. In their address they will consider whether the matter is contrary to the planning policies adopted by the Council and the impact on the neighbourhood.

The officer reported however that enforcement were very costly and time consuming for (too) often a small consequence (a fine of £500) and therefore is never the preferred option. There are currently 4 enforcement officers in Wandsworth Borough Council.

Planning Web Pages

In view of the recurrent difficulties on the Council website last year, a lot of resources have been dedicated to the issue:

  1. upgrade of the whole website
  2. move to a new system
  3. new search fields
  4. new services: planning explorer, mapping (excellent service!)

During the meeting it was noted that comments were only available when you view the documents. Although it is voluntary, the officers will see how it is possible to display a warning message.

Several improvement were also listed for future upgrades:

  • It is currently difficult to make the difference between ongoing developments and alread done.
  • Need to scroll down completely to get the View related documents.
  • If the application is new, its boundary is not on the map and will appears only once the boundary is captured (and the consultation starts).

Central Government Legislation

The main concept of the Localism Bill is the neighbourhood planning (people can get together and write plans).

As I requested on behalf of the Clapham Junction Action Group, we should have a presentation of the Localism Bill (currently on progress with Parliament) at the next meeting.

The National Planning Policy Framework is summarizing 3 meters of documents into a simple 50 page national planning development guideline.

Next meeting: mid-October 2011

[1] I’m still wondering whether it is semi-annual or quarterly… or random 😉

[2] Since our contribution criticising the change of town centre boundaries (see our contribution here and comment there) in a clear attempt to allow taller building in the location of the Peabody Estate (despite previous comments of the inspector) we heard that this was also highlighted by the Wandsworth Society, the Putney Society and the Labour group in the Council. Only the Clapham Junction Town Centre Partnership is supporting the recommendation as we discovered in their representation (that we did not received previously).

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