To receive a report from the Head of Policy and Spatial Planning on community involvement in the planning process
The Committee received a report from the Executive Director for Transport & Technical Services outlining revisions to the Statement of Community Involvement in Planning (SCI) following changes to local consultation practices. Officers informed the Committee that the SCI explains how and when the community can get involved in the Council’s planning processes (e.g. the Local Plan). A six week consultation was carried out and fifteen representations were received. The majority of these were from statutory consultees like Thames Water and Transport for London.
The updated document was scheduled to go to Full Council for adoption in June (subject to Annual Council agreeing the meeting calendar). Following adoption the document will be published on the Council’s website as a guide for officers, applicants, residents, and community groups. The SCI provided a clear and transparent guide for consultation and due process.
Councillors asked officers to outline the main differences between the new SCI and current SCI. Officers responded that the main differences were as follows:
· Developers were required to bring proposals to the community before the application is submitted.
· Ward panels were introduced and pilots were run in some areas.
· Legislative changes around statutory notifications had changed and, while the Government still required paper notices, there were discussions about moving to electronic notification. LBHF had won a DCLG bid to become a pilot area for the new system which was expected to reduce the administrative burden related to paper notifications.
Officers noted an error in the table of notifications on page 58; the text, ‘Everyone that was consulted about the application will be notified of the decision’ should have been removed. Officers informed the Committee that the number of people involved meant it was unfeasible to inform everyone by letter but moving to a self-service online system would mitigate the issue.
Councillors asked how developers were informed about community groups to consult with. Officers responded that the Council suggested developers held a public exhibition to show their proposals to the community and invite feedback. The Council gave the developer a list of invitees, including residents and community groups.
Councillors proposed that to raise awareness of local action groups they could be listed alongside statutory consultees on the materials sent to residents about upcoming developments.
ACTION: Ellen Whitchurch to include the above proposal in feedback on the SCI
Councillors raised concerns that there was a disparity in community expertise and resources in different areas of the borough. Councillors asked what support was available to residents and if the Council could provide resources to help local groups. It was also noted that small and medium scale developments were often challenged but the large developments (e.g. Westfield) were deemed too big to challenge.
Officers responded that while the Council was not able to provide support because of its role as the decision maker, there were a number of voluntary groups that fulfilled this role including the Planning Advisory Service and Planning Aid for London. Both groups provided personal support and materials and were often staffed by planners volunteering their time.
That the proposal below be included in feedback on the SCI before it is approved by Full Council.
‘That to raise awareness of local action groups they could be listed alongside statutory consultees on the materials sent to residents about upcoming developments.’