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Issue 44 Summer 2005 Price 3. The London Forum working to protect and improve the quality of life in London Amenity and Civic Societies Founded PDF

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Issue 44 Summer 2005 Price 3 newsforum The London Forum working to protect and improve the quality of life in London The London Forum of Amenity and Civic Societies Founded 1988 In this issue Spotlight
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Issue 44 Summer 2005 Price 3 newsforum The London Forum working to protect and improve the quality of life in London The London Forum of Amenity and Civic Societies Founded 1988 In this issue Spotlight on Bexley Civic Society Page Behind closed doors scrutiny of the Mayor s planning actions 03 Sustainable design and construction 04 Affordable housing David Lewis reports on the progress 04 New powers to speed up planning 05 The Barker Report on improving housing supply and simplifying planning by Harley Sherlock 06 Spotlight on Bexley Civic Society A long fight to save Georgian stables 08 The Olympic bid A tremendous success; now what follows? 09 New arrangements for listing of historic buildings and changes to Use Classes Order 10 News briefs issues of concern; meetings and exhibitions to note 12 London Forum Events Forthcoming attractions Chairman s remarks Planning policy has changed dramatically; are you involved? Now is your opportunity to influence local planning policies. We must have the basis for better planning decisions in future. In September 2004 the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act came into force and it introduced significant changes explained in various publications from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and in our earlier newsletters. This is an update on the opportunities for civic, community and amenity groups to be involved in putting in place the planning policies for the future that will affect our quality of life in the capital. Local Development Frameworks Planning Policy Statement 1 Delivering Sustainable Development detailed the Government s aims for land use planning at regional and local level. It included a section on Community Involvement. The intention is that everyone should have the opportunity to say what they want their local policies to be. The first stage was the preparation by each Council in London of a Community Plan, which should have been all completed by now. There was an article about them in issue 43 of newsforum. Societies should check that their Community Plan includes the changes they want, as it will influence the content of the Local Development Framework (LDF) which will replace the Unitary Development plan in each borough. All Councils had to submit to Government in March 2005 a list of the development plan documents that they intended to produce as the content of their LDF. That list is called a Local Development Scheme and societies should familiarise themselves with their boroughs version and think of the key policies they would like to see included. It is a good opportunity to achieve local policies to replace ones that may have been unsatisfactory in UDPs. Some plan documents are mandatory for all boroughs, on subjects of core strategy, site specific allocations of land, area action plans and a proposals map. Members will find the area action plans their best opportunity to have put in place the policies required. Boroughs are now issuing their Statements of Community Involvement to propose how they will engage people in this process. Do make sure your organisation is recorded with your Council for consultation in the preparation of the LDF content. The organisation Heritage Link has produced a guide to the LDF system for heritage groups and a copy is enclosed. If you need extra copies, please contact Heritage Link on or download a PDF version from their website. For further information see Planning Policy Statement 12 and the associated Creating Local Development Frameworks: A Companion Guide to PPS12, both on the ODPM website or in your library. Sub Regional Development Frameworks There was a double page article in issue 43 of newsforum which I wrote to explain the purpose and significance of SRDFs. The Frameworks for the five sub regions were published in July and will be open for consultation into September. This is another chance to identify any issues that affect your area that were not covered satisfactorily in the London Plan or your UDP. The SRDFs should identify cross border issues and the ways in which sustainable growth, spatial allocation and community and environmental benefit will be achieved. SRDFs will inform both the preparation of LDFs and of any amendments required to the London Plan. It is important that you examine with your Council officers the content of your SRDF and respond to the consultation on any aspects that you want to see included. London Plan changes There are some developments in housing policy for the capital see News briefs and the article by David Lewis in this issue. Draft alterations to the London Plan have been published on housing provision targets and planning for waste and for minerals. They are available from the GLA or through w sds/lon_plan_changes/index.jsp The consultation on them is very short and finishes on 9th September. Let the London Forum know how you get on with all these planning changes. Peter Eversden Chairman Annual General Meeting See you at the AGM on 22nd September. We ll have a party, a talk and discussion too. See back page for details. newsforum Summer News from the GLA and the Mayor of London Behind closed doors An Assembly scrutiny of the Mayor s planning actions revealed worrying trends: three years ago GLA Members examined the way applications referred to the Mayor were handled and produced a report: Behind Closed Doors. The problems they identified then seem to be valid still. These are their comments, with observations by London Forum. The last year has provided members with more indications of how the Mayor handles planning applications that have to be referred to him. Lots Road At the Lots Road appeal inquiry, he provided a team of officers, with legal representation, in support of the applicant s proposals for two tall towers on the Thames. Kew Bridge Road At the Kew Bridge Road appeal inquiry he has supplied written evidence of full approval for a large development that does not meet the requirements of the Site Brief for the location. Surprisingly, his officers in TfL have written to the same Inspector to express concern about transport capacity and road safety. Gunnersbury The Mayor gave full support to a development in Gunnersbury, including a low percentage of affordable housing. The Council refused permission for the application and was supported after an inquiry by an ODPM decision that rejected the appeal. The reasons included failure to meet PPG15 requirements. Commerce Road Brentford In another case at Commerce Road, Brentford a society found that the Planning Decisions Unit (PDU) of the GLA had written to their Council to state that the Mayor is minded to support the applicant at a public inquiry should planning permission be refused or the application be called in by the Secretary of State. That is daunting to a borough case officer and the society has complained. The Mayor has the right to direct refusal of an application but not to tell a borough to approve it.the boroughs expect the Mayor to have assessed a referred planning application against all policies of the London Plan. Therefore, they tend to accept his conclusions as a balanced view. There are exceptions, as one borough planning officer said to me, Why am I the one having to identify the London Plan policies to which the application doesn t conform? Some Stage 1 reports that the PDU has issued to Councils lack the identification one would expect of such non-conformances. These issues will be taken up with the GLA as they could lead to developments 02 that would not meet the standards for quality of life, sustainability, matching of infrastructure and facilities, protection of wharves, conformance with Blue Ribbon Network policies and respect for the existing built environment and heritage. Evidence has been given about this to both the Assembly s Planning and Spatial Development Committee and its Environment Committee. However, the GLA Members opportunities to be involved are limited. Three years ago they scrutinised this subject and produced a report Behind Closed Doors. The problems they identified then seem to be valid still. At the Kew Bridge Road appeal inquiry the applicant put into evidence a letter of approval from the Mayor s representative to themselves after a closed doors meeting with him. The letter was not copied to the borough. Challenged in public During a live phone-in on Radio London about housing the Mayor was taken to task by David Freeman about his plans for high density housing in Greater London, with particular reference to the Brentford warehouse plans for new tower blocks. Asked if he realised how concerned the populace was, the Mayor reportedly replied that he should speak to the homeless in London and see what their reaction was. Homeless people cannot afford the luxury properties which predominate in most housing developments. It is affordable housing which is lacking [Editor see David Lewis article on page 04]. He also said that London was a very green city with plenty of open spaces. Report of the Assembly The recommendations made in 2002 by the Assembly members will be discussed with the GLA to see what progress has been made. The following are extracts from the Assembly scrutiny report. A radical change to the planning system London s new strategic planning system... defining feature is that all executive planning power lies in the hands of the Mayor. This is a radical departure for the UK and a decisive break from decades of local authority committee-based public decision making. The Planning Advisory Committee has conducted an evidence-based investigation of the Mayor s planning decisions on strategic planning applications and the boroughs own local plans. Their main findings are summarised: Although the GLA Act 1999 does not require him to do so, the Mayor has taken a deliberate decision to exercise his planning powers in private. He has chosen to act behind closed doors, in total contrast to his initial manifesto promise to introduce the most open, accessible and inclusive style of government ever seen in the UK. A call for openness and accountability We believe that good practice demands openness, and the accountability and scrutiny which result. We call upon him to hold his planning decisions meetings in public. Ultimately the law may need to change to force this, if the Mayor remains unwilling to comply. The Mayor and the developers We have been alarmed to discover that the Mayor receives presentations from developers immediately before his private meetings where he takes his planning decisions. We are not suggesting that any impropriety happens in these meetings, but we believe that running both activities back to back is deeply unwise. It sends the wrong messages. We fear that this practice leaves the Mayor vulnerable to the accusation that his decision making is open to improper influence from a select group of powerful people with privileged access to him, whilst everyone else is excluded. The Mayor must do more to distinguish clearly between giving strategic advice to developers and taking statutory planning decisions by exercising these different roles separately. Failure to inform The Mayor is not very good at keeping Londoners informed about what he is doing on planning. He does not release agendas or minutes of his decision meetings. True, he releases on the GLA s website his letters to boroughs containing his views and decisions on strategic planning applications, but he does not do this for his representations on boroughs Unitary Development Plans. He excludes Assembly Members from his meetings, does not consult us actively, and does not respond to the Committee s recommendations. He has failed to come up with his long-promised live planning applications database. newsforum Summer 2005 GLA Draft Supplementary Planning Guidance Sustainable design and construction A summary of the Forum s response to the draft paper published by the GLA by David Lewis. The Mayor should respond to feedback from the boroughs and clarify when and how he wishes to get involved in matters of local detail on strategic planning applications, and how doing planning business with him could be improved. Recommendations We make eight recommendations to the Mayor for his attention and action: 1 We call upon the Mayor to complete without delay his long-promised planning applications database. This should be placed on the GLA website so that everyone can see how the Mayor is dealing with planning applications. 2 In the interests of open government and accountable decision making, the Mayor should give a formal response to recommendations which the Assembly makes on his proposed representations to boroughs on their UDPs, and make public his representations to boroughs and post them on the GLA website. 3 We call upon the Mayor to honour his manifesto commitment to Londoners and hold his planning decision meetings in public. We note that current legislation does not prevent this. 4 If the Mayor refuses to go public of his own accord, we may have no option but to call upon the Government to amend the Greater London Authority Act 1999 to require him to hold his planning decisions meetings in public. 5 The Mayor must distinguish clearly between giving strategic advice to developers and taking statutory planning decisions by exercising these different roles separately. 6 The Mayor should consult actively with Assembly Constituency Members before arriving at decisions on strategic planning applications. 7 The Mayor should agree with the London boroughs a protocol on strategic planning applications, dealing with applicants, and the conduct of good working relationships between GLA, TfL and LDA officers, and the boroughs. 8 The Mayor should publish guidelines on the general factors which would trigger his intervention on a referred planning application. This should also include the circumstances under which he would wish to get involved in Section 106 negotiations between boroughs and developers The draft Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) on Sustainable Design and Construction published in March 2005 does not cover all the essential conditions for sustainability of this vital area of policy. We propose some detailed amendments to the draft, as set out below. Introduction: The London Forum supported the Mayor s target of reducing London s 1990 level of carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2010, rising to 23% by 2016; and attaches importance to the Mayor s London Plan commitment to ensure the Plan s policies contribute to achieving those targets. The introduction to this SPG should set its provisions in context by indicating,at least in broad terms, the contribution they can be expected to make in the period of the Plan and in the longer term; and by cross-referring to the challenges presented by the poor energy performance of the existing stock of buildings. The short paragraph on Monitoring (Section 1.8) does not do justice to the seriousness of the present situation: there is already widespread non-compliance with Building Regulations. We consider that implementation of this SPG will be key, but there must be adequate monitoring to ensure that approved proposals for development are actually put into effect. Although not identical in coverage, the SPG and the Building Regulations do overlap in the topics for which adequate monitoring of compliance is likely to be a particularly important consideration. We therefore support the logic of giving building control officers, after appropriate training, responsibility for monitoring compliance with this SPG as well as compliance with the Building Regulations. We urge the Mayor to apply whatever pressure is necessary to ensure that solution can be adopted and properly resourced. There must be a clear indication where responsibility lies for applying the SPG. It should be explained that development types A, B, C and E listed in the table on page 10 are categories of development which are not referable to the Mayor but which he considers boroughs should deem as major by analogy with the definitions used in the ODPM P52 form. The SPG should not leave that to be inferred from an entry in the glossary. Section 2.1.2: The London Forum recognises that there are many places in London where increases in density are desirable and will make an essential contribution to sustainability. However, the reference in the SPG to the matrix for residential densities in table 4B.1 of the London Plan should follow more closely the wording of paragraph 4.45 of the London Plan committing the Mayor to ensuring that planning applications referred to him are in conformity with the matrix. The draft uses the phrase have regard to. More seriously, the Mayor s preferred standard in the corresponding section of the SPG s own matrix says that, subject to certain conditions, developers will be expected to exceed the ranges for residential densities in table 4B.1. This is in direct conflict with the London Plan, the London Forum would be strongly opposed to such a policy, and the draft SPG should be amended on this point. Section 2.3.2: We welcome the prominence given here and in the matrix to the Mayor s energy hierarchy. The SPG should refer to London Plan policy 4A.8 (Energy assessment) as the legal basis for requiring developers to apply the hierarchy. Use of the hierarchy should be shown in the matrix as applicable to type E developments as an essential standard, rather than merely needing consideration. Policy A4.8 specifically requires boroughs to request an assessment of such proposed developments, demonstrating the steps taken to apply the hierarchy. Indeed, this requirement of the London Plan applies equally to any residential development of more than 10 dwellings, and therefore to development types B and C, if such developments are to deemed major (see comments above on page 10 of the draft). At this point in the matrix the Mayor s preferred standard (shown as applying to all types of development except car parks) represents a big step backwards from the essential standard, in that it omits passive design, heat pumps and any clear reference to cooling systems. It needs redrafting. The paper is available at: w sds/sustainable_design.jsp newsforum Summer GLA Delivery of affordable housing Affordable housing David Lewis reports on progress on affordable housing following the South London Partnership event on 4th May 2005 with Duncan Bowie (lead officer on the subject within the GLA) and, on relevant points arising out of the Vauxhall Tower case. Overall progress Boroughs are adopting the London Plan s 50% target for negotiating the proportion of affordable housing in schemes by private developers. However, this is only a negotiating objective, and the prospects for achieving it will depend very much on the economics of particular schemes, the crucial factor being the availability of public subsidy. The Housing Corporation s current strategy of putting a large part of its resources into subsidising owner-occupation for key workers, rather than into social rented housing or shared ownership, is causing upward pressure on house prices and widening the housing divide. It is failing to achieve its aim of retaining key workers; beneficiaries tend to purchase a house at some distance from their work (where prices are lower) and then take jobs nearer home. It was only with difficulty that the GLA persuaded the government to make assistance conditional on retaining the house for a specified number of years; otherwise the subsidy could simply have provided a stepping stone to moving out of London altogether. Density Some boroughs are now focussing increased densities around town centres, in accordance with London Plan policies. But the London Plan Annual Monitoring Report showed that densities in new housing schemes have actually been declining in some Outer London boroughs and in some South London boroughs there is at present a sharp transition from town centre uses to low-density
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