Last night, virtually the entire Council came together to back a
Labour Motion criticising the way the Planning Application and Major Planning Development Committees operate. Cllr Blakeman, absent through illness,(Cllr Mason delivered her speech) criticised some committee members lack of understanding of process often leading to 'inappropriate comments and suggestions'.
Here is the motion....it is well drafted and to the point and it's unsurprising it gained cross party support....
.....We are becomingly increasingly concerned at the lack of discipline exhibited by applicants and the Council alike when some very important planning applications come before us – generally, but not exclusively, at the Major Planning Development Committee.
In recent times we have noted how developers and other applicants offer attractive promises to objectors that re-assure both them and the councillors making decisions on seriously important applications. Unfortunately, councillors are not advised at the time that many of these assurances cannot be conditioned and are unenforceable, since they are outside the remit of the planning system - and it is vital that this problem is addressed urgently. Recent examples include:
· The assurance given with regard to the Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre that the air quality would be surveyed at the two five-a-side sports pitches at Westway that replace the three lost from Lancaster West
· At the same meeting, the assurance given that works on Saturdays would not commence before 10 am so that residents can get some well-earned rest
· The promise that a new secondary school would be built as part of the Earl’s Court development
· And the assurance that the new pool at Holland Park School will be available out of hours for community use – a condition that is of particular importance to the early morning swimmers displaced by the closure of the Kensington Leisure Centre.
When we have followed these up we have been told:
· That the reasons why the air quality survey information cannot be provided were discussed at the Planning Committee. Labour councillors who were present throughout that meeting and have no recollection of anyone being told that this was outside the planning system, only that agreement was given to undertake the survey
· That officers have no recollection that any assurance to start the works at 10 am on Saturdays was agreed – again Labour councillors who were there heard it quite clearly, as did others
· That there is no way that we can enforce the building of a new secondary school at Earl’s Court
· And that the condition on community use of the Holland Park School swimming pool – which certainly is enforceable - has been pushed so far into the long grass that the re-assurance given to the early morning swimmers is quite meaningless.
Residents are increasingly focusing on the performance of our planning councillors and our Planning Department on these and many other issues and I am afraid that increasingly often we are found wanting.
Persistent breaches of assurances, condition and promises
that re-assure councillors and members of the public and that encourage the grant of planning permission is bringing this Council seriously into disrepute. It must stop now.
As this motion indicates, this is not just a matter for our
planning department and whether or not they provide timely and accurate advice – it is also a matter for planning councillors themselves to ensure that they are properly trained and are able to distinguish between assurances that can be conditioned and enforced and vague promises that sound attractive on the night but cannot be conditioned nor – more importantly – enforced later on down the line.
At best, accepting these promises this makes us look gullible,
stupid and incompetent - at worst it makes us look as though
we are in collusion with developers and other applicants. This is bringing us all into disrepute and is something we must address urgently.