GLA Planning Committee

Neighbourhood Planning and London’s Communities

Date: 25th April 2019
GLA Planning Committee discussion at City Hall on looking into the progress of implementing neighbourhood planning in London.

To view video click here.
Length: 2 hours 59 minutes and 27 seconds. Please note meeting starts at 10.06 seconds in.

Andrea Carey from Deptford Neighbourhood Action attended the meeting. Her
additional comments that she would like the Committee to take into consideration in its investigation and here is the draft DNA Neighbourhood plan as it currently stands:

1. More support and  Resources:

  • Provision by Local Authority of meanwhile office space with computer and printing equipment, this could double up as a location for display of materials relating to the emerging Neighbourhood Plan – e.g. map of the NPlan Area; list of objectives, details about how to join, meeting forum Committee members, information about how the plan is progressing etc – a real world space for the information held on the website – a space where the local people can drop in to give their comments and ideas in person – an opportunity for continual engagement with people living, working, and connecting with the local NPlan Area.  DNA have been trying to get a meanwhile use space since 2016 and identified a Council owned shop that had been empty for years in the High Street which we had to tender for alongside other local businesses but social value (our tender included a shared space for benefits advice and a business network space, and a community run cafe with free arts for school children after school) was not taken into account only £ factors so having pointed out the possibility of bringing this empty space back into use to the Council we didn’t get it!
  • Provision of on-going support by the Neighbourhood Planners London – who would need proper funding by DCLG to support training events – these could be on the different stages of producing a Neighbourhood Plan; CIL and things like technical packages of support linked to Neighbourhood Plans like Design Codes; Site Allocation; Character & Heritage assessments.  Also provision from Neighbourhood Planners London could include mentoring and advice help and support via phone and providing examples of policies; and useful evidence based information examples etc by email – IF there was a paid for support service for Neighbourhood Forums in London.
  • Guaranteed regular meetings with the Council’s lead planning officer from early on in the process to look at designating green and open spaces, and identify potential sites with the Neighbourhood Forum to ensure that local planning applications and developments do not go against the emerging Neighbourhood Plan (which support all the Council’s own objectives for protecting biodiversity, trees, open space policies, air quality action plans, local employment opportunities etc). 
  • Funded Website set up and design & administrative support and funded costs of a household wide survey of the Draft Neighbourhood Plan at Reg 14 as part of the package provided by Locality.

2. Councils need to see Neighbourhood Forums and Neighbourhood Plans as opportunities and not threats!  Closer collaborative working with Neighbourhood Forums is needed – we are all trying to ‘help the Council do better’, by supporting local communities to have a real say – Neighbourhood Planning is the only form of direct democracy – Councils and Developers only consult at the later stages of planning when it is a done deal and therefore end up with community objections which are disregarded and have become practically meaningless! DNA aimed to have a pilot community collaborative plan as part of the Neighbourhood Planning process by asking the Council to work with us on the Tidemill School Site – but the Council refused to work with us and insisted on going ahead with plans to destroy a community asset even though an alternative plan could have produced for @£75K instead £1m was wasted on security in the Old School when the property guardians were moved out in September 2016 when the Council thought the initial planning application was going to be passed!

3. Councils need to engage with the community at the early stages of planning:

  • When developments over 10 homes are planned in the Neighbourhood Plan Area – to set up a meeting with the Council planners and Developers to discuss impacts on the community – Neighbourhood Forums are a ready-made opportunity to do this and to encourage community views about design, housing need etc early on in the process.
  • Council Design Panels – need to have a community representation board – to ensure that community views are taken into account – again local Neighbourhood forums could help support the process of setting up boards like these by encouraging their members to apply to be on it and  then a call-out system for 2-3 representatives could be used by the design panel to whichever Local Neighbourhood Forum it needed community representatives from – as in Lewisham there are 5 Neighbourhood Forum groups set up with (I think) a couple more in the pipeline.
  • The Statement of Community Involvement should be drawn up in collaboration with Neighbourhood Forums, Local Assemblies and promoted through over-arching organisations such as Lewisham Pensioners Forum; Voice4Deptford; Voluntary Action Lewisham etc.  “Nothing about us without us” etc.

4. CIL – Councils should be duty bound to ensure that the process of the allocation of CIL in Neighbourhood Plan Areas is agreed with the Neighbourhood Forums & any local Community Development Trust in place so that the community do truly benefit from the Developer’s contributions to their local Area.

5. The GLA taking up Just Space’s Community-led Plan for London: https://justspace.org.uk/the-community-led-alternative-plan/
would go a long way to making some of the changes advocated in the Nick Raynsford/TCPA Final Planning Review (November 2018): which as the RICS says “At the heart of the review are ideals around democracy and accountability, reflecting concerns from communities interviewed about the lack of ownership over their areas.”

The GLA itself needs to reflect on how it works currently to support the large private developers instead of localised community solutions for planning via the push for housing numbers – but not the right type of housing – i.e. housing to meet identified local need, is going to continue to put pressure on local councils to go against community-led planning to meet housing numbers not housing need.  Lewisham only built one council rent social home last year and only 110 the year before yet the need for council social rent homes (or even London Affordable Rent) is at least 1700 per year to meet demand!

Councils have become a law unto themselves constantly going against their own planning policies in relation to other issues such as protecting and promoting green and open space, play space, bio-diversity, trees etc by using the need for housing argument when only (on average across the last decade) 12% of real social housing is being built.  Part of this is the misleading of the terms social housing.  The only categories of social housing that are social housing are council social rent and London Affordable Rent as these can be supported by Universal Credit.  The GLA needs to take the lead in ensuring that Local Councils and Developers stop calling Shared Ownership social housing  – as no-one on benefits could afford to part buy a home that is likely to cost anywhere between £250K – £800K (one bed – 3 bed) in London.  Currently both Councils and Developers are misleading local communities with their claims of 35% social housing – when in reality it is often much less (eg in our DNA Plan Area No 1 Creekside is only 19.6% real social housing and not the stated 35%).