Lewisham proposes whatever the opposite of a NIMBY's charter is

Lewisham Council is considering a proposal to cut costs by reducing the quality of local consultation around planning applications.

The Public Accounts Select Committee is due to consider ideas proposed submitted by Head of Planning, John Miller to:

Cease written notification of planning applications to neighbours of proposed developments. It was also being proposed to stop amenity panel meetings and local meetings. 

The proposals would result in a saving through staffing reduction. Other London Boroughs had moved to a system of using site notices to make communities aware of planning applications. 

John Miller advised that the approach had worked in other London Boroughs. However, further work needed to be carried out to ensure that best practice could be replicated in Lewisham.

BC considers itself a pretty pro-development sort of a blog and recognises that the Council needs to find savings and that a strong defence could be mounted for nearly every line of Council expenditure. It's impossible to create a value equation that allows you choose between, say, consultation and refuse collection, but bad developments damage neighbourhoods and digital consultation is of limited use.

The Council has been consulting with local Amenity Groups about the idea and plans to publish a new draft Statement of Community Involvement for consultation within the next year. It needs to make sure people will be adequately consulted before it considers any cuts, especially since cuts to the media team mean that Council information is less forthcoming than it used to be and the email alerts about local applications are erratic at best.

With thanks to JPM and Michael for the information.

10 comments:

freethinker85 said...

Lack of consultation could cost more money in the long run. Planning is meant to be democratic but stopping letters is a move in the wrong direction. As it is, a lot of improvements need to be made on how people are consulted in the community. I would say though that neighbours' objections are often reactionary, rather than considering the greater good of society but people should have a right to have their concerns considered.

guest said...

The lobby of construction companies is at work. I wonder why the Council does not spend its energy in making sure that areas with approved plans are developed within 18 months rather than kept for speculate on rising prices. London needs more homes, but the incentive is not there for more homes to be built asap even when planning application is agreed.

Brockley Nick said...

I don't really understand how that conspiracy theory works. Big projects done by the kinds of construction companies with any kind of lobbying clout are always going to trigger a lot of debate and local awareness. The risk with this move is that the smaller projects, done by smaller developers will slip by unnoticed.

JPM said...

Thanks for highlighting this, Nick.

I find it odd that the council is only consulting with Amenity Groups on this (names please) and not directly with local residents themselves.

I don’t think posting a notice to a lamppost or the door of a development is enough. Like goalposts, planning notices can be moved.

What is actually needed is more scrutiny of the planning process - not less. The planning decisions reached by officers under delegated powers in many cases, in addition to the information flow passed up to elected members by planning officers at committee, needs more scrutiny; not less.

Determining schemes elsewhere may lull a councillor living in a different ward into believing that it is their opinion alone that is more important than the out of ward electorates’ concerns with a development. Why should this be? If we reside in an area on which important decisions are being made, and the officers and councillors do not reside here, what then gives them the right to shape such communities over residents? What utter arrogance!

It is worth remembering that many planning decisions are already made by persons who neither live in nor visit the wards in which they make planning decisions that impact on so many lives; however small. (Apparently the head of planning himself lives in Dartford!)

However, having an overview on how Lewisham should take shape is one thing, but micromanaging - massaging local residents’ concerns out of existence, under the guise of fund saving - is a contol-freaking step too far.
In my opinion, the cost to communities will be far greater if the dissenting voices within it are not heard. However troublesome they may be to the council.

Brockley Nick said...

In the letter Michael sent me, the Council mentioned that they had received a total of 22 responses, including from members of the public, though I don't know how they found those general public respondents.


Michael is a member of The Forest Hill Society, so they have certainly been canvassed, and I think we can probably assume that BrocSoc has too.

Think Again! said...

The council already seem to pick and choose, if and when they send letters, which is totally outrageous.

Surely they have a duty and an obligation to keep sending letters, to those who could be potentially impacted by any development. Regardless of whether that member of the community use the internet or pass a proposed development, it's totally ridiculous and ill conceived idea.

This would clearly alienate the disabled, elderly, infirm or those who are temporary absent from the area and are relying on there post to be re-delivered. eg: people in hospital, carers or people working away, the forces etc, the illiterate or those whom English is not there first language.

This kind of penny pinching is clearly bias towards developers at the expense of the community. There is a simple process that needs to be followed, the impact cost of letters is most likely minimal at that. If it's efficiencies they seek they simply need to double up or partner up on leafleting or a simple community news letter.

I wonder If John Miller would like to explain how he defines "the approach had worked in other London Boroughs" that's a very bold statement and works for whom?... Just the council and those members who don't fit in the any of the above.

Crofty said...

It'd surely end up more expensive to the council this way, as they must be legally obliged to let local communities know about planning proposals and as another commenter said, site notices vanish. This would mean the council would need to have people regularly patrolling to check the notices were still there, and a system in place to replace ones that had been taken down. Plus I can imagine lots of appeals by people against proposed developments based on site notices having gone missing ... am sure some people if very anti a proposal would document how often the site notices went missing in order to shore up their appeal. Way way more expensive to the council in long run.

bobblekin said...

Notification is the least they can do. The simple solution is to put the costs back onto the developer when it concerns commercial proposals. Commercial developers should prove that they have the consent and support of the residents. The planni ng process currently begins with the assumption that the development can proceed unless residents can prove a compelling objection. The process isn't anti development at all. What is a anti development is the number of inappropriate a d desperate sites that developers keep choosing to build on. Normally because they are cheaper options to better sites.

Eosin reign said...

Where were the NIMBYs when that dump next to the Chinese on Mantle Road got approved?

Michael_FH said...

The consultation, which closed in October, can be viewed on the council website http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/planning/policy/LDF/Pages/Statement-of-community-involvement-.aspx
The 'Letter and Q&A' document is the easiest to understand the changes that have been proposed.
Officers specifically spoke to Amenity Societies as their roles in particular would be changed. Many of the amenity societies (including BrocSoc) in Lewisham raised concerns about a number of the proposals and made suggestions for improvements. A major concern was that members of the public (unlike amenity societies) don't know to set up alerts on planning issues in their area and don't always read the latest notice tied to a lamppost.
My understanding is that officers are now re-drafting the documents to take account of feedback they have received and are unlikely to present a final version until later in the year.

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