New consultation on planning documents: what’s the point?

Author: Cyril Richert

The Council is producing a new Local Plan document  covering employment premises and industrial land. This new document will replace the employment and industrial land policies in the existing Local Plan documents, the Core Strategy, Development Management Policies Document (DMPD) and the Site Specific Allocations Document (SSAD). At the same time the Council will be starting work on the full review of the Local Plan which will include review of all other policy matters (YES, already… the current local plan is still under examination, that the Council is already working on changing the not-yet-approved one!).

For many years in the past we have been saying that Wandsworth Planning policies were ineffective. The Council has always denied it and went up to calling us Nimbies because we dare highlight the facts. And yes, they are not our own fantasy, but those allegations were actually confirmed by a government inspector in charge of reviewing Wandsworth Local Plan: “the documents as a whole are ineffective” he wrote at the end of July. We were right. Is the Council going to apologise?

In the same way, we complained many times that so-called consultations were only box-ticking exercises for the Council. In December 2014 we wrote to the Council:

“As usual, we noticed (and regret) that most of the comments made by the residents, groups and societies have been rejected or ignored in your responses to the 2013 consultation on planning policy; it questions, once more, the purpose of the full process, other than ticking the right box at the right time.

We have little hope that any more consideration will be given regarding concerns of the local residents. And we believe that the same feeling is shared by all the other Societies in Wandsworth. In itself, not addressing that issue is showing the poor consideration given by Wandsworth council to the consultation process, which is only therefore fulfilling its statutory duties.”

Recent debates within the Council chamber have once again proven us correct. When the Council decided to run its own poll on its website and was eventually displeased by the result, they decided it was irrelevant regarding the entire population of the borough. Cllr Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council, made this cynical remark:

“62% of the 1,366 respondents to the Council’s survey expressed this view – not 62% of residents. That equates to 847 people. As a percentage of the Borough’s population of around 310,000, that is 0.27%”.

Shall we say that Mr Govindia was elected as a Councillor last May 2014 by only 2134 voters, which mean “as a percentage of the Borough’s population of around 310,000, that is” 0.69%? Ooops, the leader of Wandsworth Council is only approved by 0.69% of the Borough’s population.

Following Mr Govindia reasoning, only 21 representations were received regarding the examination of the Council’s planning documents. Which is 0.0068% of the borough’s population. Let’s be honest. We will never reach 160000 representations of residents (including new born babies according to Mr Govindia’s calculation!). What’s the point of consultation?

Once again it is a very clear example of the level of consideration that the Conservative majority of Wandsworth Council is giving to consultation and democracy.

Therefore why should we spend time on this new consultation? Especially on industrial land, when the Council failed to protect and even encouraged its disappearance? Is Wandsworth Council going to listen in 2016? Chances might be as high as snow drops this Christmas.

Happy festive season.

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