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Thursday, 24 January 2013

COUNCIL MOTION CALLS FOR COUNCILLOR TRAINING


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.

27 comments:

  1. Retired Chief Executive24 January 2013 at 15:31

    Councillors and residents should not be surprised by any of this. It is a failure of Leadership in the Town Hall. When a spirit of "anything goes" develops in an organisation, administrators get their kicks from exercising arbitrary power. It "feels important" to agree to anything on the hoof and macho behaviour reigns. It is all spur of the moment stuff and has little or no connection with powers that are based in law and regulation. It is a sure sign of an organisation in decline. Labour is right to highlight the nonsense but it has its eye on the wrong ball. The culture needs to change. And that starts with example from the top.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To pinch a phrase from British Airways, Councillors and Officers would do well if they adopted the purpose of "We Work To Serve". A terrible drift has set in at Hornton Street over the last fourteen years

      Delete
  2. Tory councillors need to grasp the nettle. Its called a New Broom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A motion of "No Confidence" in Sir Merrick Cockell would do residents a big favour.

      Delete
    2. So how do we do this?

      Delete
  3. Cllr Ahern was in top form by pointing out that in the last 6 months there had been 2 training courses for councillors on planning that had been well attended, unfortunately not by Labour councillors. Their excuse "we do not need it".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No Labour Councillor said they didn't need it; they said it needed to be at more convenient times, or a variety of times.

      Clashing with committee meetings, or a week during the summer holidays, suits a particular kind of person; someone not needed on committees and who has no commitments during school holidays and is happy to disappear for a week with a crate of wine - as I was told was the norm. Say no more.

      Delete
  4. Dear old Dim Tim...he needs intensive training....he is so thick. Luckily his ex wife was very rich and gave him the keys to his house as a goodbye present. maybe the Labour members didn't need training

    ReplyDelete
  5. Labour councillors took the training when it was first offered, not belatedly during the last 6 months.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It is a shambles at the moment. A disgrace. And there can be no fudge and no excuse. Planning is not part of the tri borough - it is pure Royal Borough parading as Rotten Borough

    ReplyDelete
  7. Bore and his henchmen from the Planning Dept have bullied and lied to Councillors and objectors alike for too long now. Wasn't Councillor Ahern meant to be getting a grip and making Planning more resident friendly? 0/10 there then!
    Well done to Cllr Blakeman for pointing all this out, but not before it was too late for residents in her own Notting Barnes Ward, whose views on the Kensington Academy (KALC) have been treated with contempt and disdain by those with power in the Planning Dept at the Council.
    The Planning Dept's treatment of this community in North Kensington has caused great upset and will never be forgotten. Residents on Lancaster West Estate have been treated as poorly as the residents who faced callous Council indifference in the 70s when the Westway flyover was built and they were forced to live overlooking the motorway.
    At the KALC Planning Committee one of the Councillors did not even know the basic layout of the proposed site and kept rudely interrupting an objector while they made their legitimate submission. Needless to say the application was a shoe in!
    This was also despite the fact that the actual KALC Planning Application was so flawed and full of misleading facts and claims that it was not fit for purpose and would never have survived the briefest scrutiny-which, of course, it never got.
    The issue of pollution by the Westway Sports Centre will come back to haunt this Planning Dept who have again bullied a number of Majority Party Councillors into covering up this shameful ill-treatment of sports users who are now forced to play football mere feet away from the slip road off a highly polluted motorway.
    Councillor Coates (Conservative) was promised a report into pollution levels but he has now been silenced and sidelined by an act of collusion between the Planning and Legal Dept. Councillors Coleridge's platitudes to local campaigners are on this subject do him or the Council no justice. What a cess-pit but this is one that will be exposed!
    Seeing the Kensington Odeon Planning Committee in supposed action was truly heartbreaking. Their readiness to surrender the wonderful trees outside the cinema and sanction the disappearance of the iconic Odeon itself, into multi-million pound estate agents dream, proves that the very soul is being ripped out of this most Rotten Borough. Profit before residents is the current mantra.
    Seeing a teenage resident, attending the Odeon Planning Committee, burst into tears on hearing that the magnificent and much loved trees would be butchered will stay with many present for many years.
    Not sure anyone on the Committee even noticed or stopped to consider this youngsters or the wider community's pain and dissatisfaction!

    ReplyDelete
  8. The Planning Department is just not fit for purpose. It was difficult to find anyone to take the job over from the hopeless David 'Prat'so they took Bore what a mistake.

    ReplyDelete
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