Review of the planning appeals process
We have commented on the policy consultation by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government on the Planning Appeal Inquiries process. You can see what we have said here: Planning Appeal Inquiries process review
The review is designed to identify how processes can be improved so that “decisions can be made sooner but without compromising their quality”.
Revised National Planning Policy Framework
We have submitted our comments on the Government’s proposed amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework. This is an important document framing planning policies. Amongst a number of issues we have raised, we are seeking to ensure there is improved protection for the setting of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, particularly from insensitive developments which could affect its historic vistas. You can see our comments here: National Planning Policy Framework revision Kew Society comments
House of Lords Select Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment
The Select Committee has now published its report, “Building better places”, which you can see here.
We are pleased to see that the Committee has picked up on several of our points, perhaps most notably recommending that financial viability assessments, often used to argue against the inclusion of affordable housing in schemes, should be published (see paras 324-336 in the report), We hope the Government will implement this recommendation – this is something we have been raising for some time, not least on the Brentford Football Stadium enabling developments where we have achieved partial disclosure through the Freedom of Information Act and appeal to the Information Commissioner.
The report also comments on delays by developers in implementing approved plans for housing development (see paras 312-323) which we raised, on the expertise needed in Council planning departments (see paras 375-376), and on the problems with allowing change of use from employment space to housing introduced by national Government which is causing problems in many parts of the country, including Kew (see paras 131-140).
We have taken the opportunity to submit evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment, drawing on our experience over the last few years. We have commented on the poor location proposed for the Deer Park School on the A316, difficulties in meeting affordable housing targets, the expertise we think is needed within the Council for optimal planning management, problems with loss of employment space because of Government policies on housing, delays by developers in implementing agreed plans, and a lack of transparency in the evidence used in assessing the financial viability of schemes. You can see details of the Committee here and our submission on the questions most relevant to us here: Evidence for the House of Lords Select Committee.
You can watch the oral evidence given to the Committee by David Tittle, a Trustee of Civic Voice to which we belong here:Oral evidence
This is an important consultation drawn to our attention by the London Forum which will be featuring the Kew Society in its next Newsletter.
Together with the Richmond Society we drafted a response to the Government’s consultation on speeding up the process for roll-out of superfast broadband around the country. The Government proposed relaxing the current restrictions on deployment of overhead infrastructure in protected areas and removing requirements for prior approval of the siting of street cabinets. The Government’s view is that these relaxations in planning law are needed in order to speed up deployment, especially in rural communities. We do not think the relaxations are necessary and are concerned that they could mean unsightly deployment of street cabinets and overhead lines. Commercial providers should engage with communities through local authorities to demonstrate they have given due weight to environmental issues. The process of approval could be speeded up by the development of guidelines and a Code of Practice which Civic Voice, the national body of civic societies, has already offered to help develop. We submitted comments in a joint letter from the Richmond and Kew Societies on 4 March 2013.