Once More With Feeling?

South elevation 156 WELaneThe final amendments to the A2 Dominion Development Scheme Planning Application no. 2015/6455/P for the Travis Perkins site @ 156 West End Lane which has been the source of such dismay for residents of the ‘village’ – are posted on Camden Planning’s website NOW.

We expect the comments period deadline to be on or about 7 November 2016

NDF: Neighbourhood Democracy First

Suggestions for  West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum’s Structure and Function

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West Hampstead Gardens & Residents Association (WHGARA) was invited to make suggestions about the NDF constitution at the January NDF/AGM and, at the NDF meeting on 1st March , 2016 briefly introduced the issues below for the attention of the wider Forum members.

  • The Name: There is still confusion regarding the name of this Forum. The lead name is Fortune Green in one context and West Hampstead in another. They are not interchangeable. As the current challenge is to improve the Forum and the Plan relevance and recognition – it is essential that the name be consistent.
  • New Aims and relationships of the Forum: CONGESTION and pressure on BASIC SERVICES are problems in the ‘growth’ area of WH. We suggest that the NDF initiates a direct relationship with statutory providers to influence better provision of supply & call for accurate impact studies. This is essential for realistic Masterplanning.
  • Communication/Consultation: Individual Committee members could take on more specific responsibilities relating directly with community members on particular issues. Effective communication depends on a strong NDF social media profile and the website must be more interactive and dynamic as a tool for community involvement. An a IT advisor/designer should be enlisted to donate help.
  • Politics: The constitution states that the NDF ‘shall not be a party political body’. This political neutrality should be protected from partisan and party affiliations.
  • Membership: NDF Membership should be based on formal consent with the completion of an official registration form and audited yearly.At the recent AGM the constitution was changed to allow group membership. The benefits or rights conferred by this and how groups will  be represented must be defined by members of the Forum collectively.
  • Roles and reporting back: NDF officers and committee members who are invited to private meetings on behalf of the NDF should include outside community representatives, keep accurate notes and report back to general Forum meetings about outcomes.We also suggest introducing a rotating chair arrangement to give committee members shared responsibility for managing general meetings. The role of deputy Chair needs better definition and some specific area of responsibility.Involving Community: To increase community engagement with the NDPlan, small and time-limited volunteer working groups should be supported – bringing greater input from the wider membership.Canvassing members views and providing background information by email before meetings and workshops would allow for informed debate & more considered judgments.
  • Meeting procedures: Before General Agenda items opportunities should be available to table general members issues for the attention of the meeting.The meeting minutes must be accurate, impartial and reasonably complete. Formal requests and motions should be put to the meeting, voted on and recorded in the Minutes.
  • Finance: Requests for Section 106 or CIL funding should be disclosed when applied for and mandated by a general members vote.A detailed explanation of the NDF financial position and more transparent financial reporting system will be required for future (CIL & other) funding

Making Progress

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West Hampstead Gardens and Residents Association (WHGARA) was started in 2011 to oppose a local homeowner who was building inappropriate rear extensions at the back of adjoining houses. It has evolved into a successful  campaigning group which fights to protect West Hampstead during a period of intense change and (over) development.  Its membership covers Hemstal Road, Sherriff Road and the roads between but we also welcome residents from other nearby areas to join as friends. Below is a list of neighbourhood issues which we have been involved in over the past four years.

 

ISSUES [1]: LARGE AND MEDIUM SIZE DEVELOPMENT SCHEMES

  • Ballymore (West End Square)
  • Broadhurst Gardens
  • Iverson Road (former nursery and tyre centres)
  • Liddell Road development
  • London Overground Station
  • 156 West End Lane

Concerns expressed about the impact of developments:

  • Buildings too high and / or too large,
  • Destroying character of the area and setting a precedent for further over-development,
  • Too much residential development without sufficient education, health or transport infrastructure,
  • Insufficient proportion of affordable housing,
  • Loss of affordable business space,
  • Architectural design and landscaping issues,
  • Wholesale destruction of mature trees,

WHGARA’s represents the views of local people whose lives will potentially be affected by these developments, putting forward our concerns to appropriate individuals and organisations with the aim of influencing outcomes.

Actions Taken:

  • Monitoring development proposals as early as possible and obtaining information prior to submission of planning applications
  • Keeping members informed about what’s happening and discussing this at meetings / via email etc
  • Attending public exhibitions and consultations about forthcoming developments,
  • Commenting on and where necessary objecting to proposed developments prior to planning application stage, by writing & speaking to local councillors, other council members, council officials, the local MP, Network Rail, developers and any other involved agencies (Thames Water, TFL, London Overground, etc)
  • Representing members’ views at Development Management Forums and providing feedback to WHGARA membership
  • Development Control Committee – attending meetings or writing & making submissions to them.
  • Studying council planning policy in detail and keeping up with Camden, London Plan and NDF guidelines.
  • Direct action: Tree Vigil demonstration (Ballymore), participating in demonstration against 156 West End Lane
  • Supporting and Liaising with other local groups campaigning against excessive development, e.g. Save Swiss Cottage, Save West Hampstead: Stop the Blocks, NDF
  • Formal responses to planning applications.
  • During construction – representation on Community Construction Group re construction issues – e.g. traffic, noise, pollution.
  • Commenting on revisions to plans while development is ongoing.

ISSUES [2]: GENERAL ISSUES IN WEST HAMPSTEAD AND THE IMMEDIATE NEIGHBOURHOOD

  • The tube station – need for development and lift
  • Traffic management and road & pavement safety on West End Lane
  • Parking issues (disabled parking, bike & cycle parking, taxi parking)
  • Shortage of school places
  • Threat of closure to West Hampstead Library
  • Smaller planning applications
  • Excessive and potentially damaging basement development
  • Conversion of part of St James’s Church to Post Office etc
  • Entertainment and alcohol licence applications (Grange Park and St James Church)
  • Future management of Grange Park
  • Noise (e.g. scaffolding alarms) and threat of noise (e.g. Grange Park events)
  • Litter and Dog dirt
  • Fly tipping, rubbish piling up at recycling sites
  • Poor waste management collections & threat of fortnightly bin collections
  • Local car crime, break-ins and antisocial behaviour
  • Evening hot food market on Iverson Road – lack of consultation and poor management.
  • Excessive & ugly advertising – estate agents’ boards and large farmers’ market tree banners
  • Too many estate agents occupying small business premises on West End Lane
  • Pavement clutter (e.g. Christmas trees on sale, advertising boards)
  • The Eruv
  • The Local List (for conservation)
  • Legible London signs
  • CIL Funding priorities

WHGARA aims to represent and support the views of local people who are affected by these issues and campaign to influence them where relevant. As a responsive, informed local group, the council and other bodies often consult WHGARA about issues and forthcoming events.

Actions Taken:

  • Keeping residents, members and friends informed about current and future issues – bringing concerns to meetings for discussion and decisions -by vote -on action.
  • Communicating our views to relevant authorities, council members, council officers, the police, trades people, the church etc
  • Keeping an open dialogue with local councillors, inviting them to meetings
  • Inviting guest speakers – local police, ‘West Hampstead Life’ blogger, Father Andrew, basement development expert, local councillors, council officer (street environment)
  • Responding to formal consultations about council policy, petitions (e.g. about threatened library closure) , planning and licencing applications, spending of CIL money
  • Representation at planning and licensing decision meetings
  • Attending formal meetings about council policy, including Camden’s annual transport policy meetings, Camden Safer Neighbourhood Policy meetings, future of West Hampstead Library meetings, Neighbourhood Development Forum meetings – putting forward members’ views and reporting back to members
  • Influencing the writing of the Neighbourhood Development Plan – commenting on drafts and attending workshops of the NDF
  • Liaising with and sometimes supporting other local groups e.g. WHAT, CRASH, the NDF, Friends of Kilburn Grange Park and other residents’ groups.
  • Direct Action: Cleaned up rubbish at local Green space (Netherwood Street) for proposed public use. Liaised with Camden Green Space, the Green Gym, Camden Council and Cleanup UK. Made proposals to the council on the future of the space.
  • Supporting local small traders in relation to loss of business space

OTHER ACTIVITIES: Meetings about every 3 months & occasional social events. Producing WHGARA blog. Publicity – holding stalls at local festivals – Grange Park and Jester Festival

The Watch Man

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Zia

If He Can’t Fix it, Nobody Can

Mr Ahmed Zia came to England from Afghanistan in 1986. Local residents and commuters have depended on this independent businessman operating out of one of the tiniest but most useful shops in the centre of West Hampstead since 2008. Many local people call him ‘the watch man.” Selling “Sundries” to thousands each year he also repairs small items and watches, mends jewellery, recycles and stocks the essentials we don’t realise are… essential.

He has recently been told to leave by Transport for London, his landlord. They are refusing to renew his lease after March 2016. He cannot plan ahead or order stock because he does not know where he will be. He only hopes they will delay the rebuilding of the Underground and give him more time.

He and his wife are a special part of the community, “Everyone knows us”, said Mrs Zia, his wife. He is ‘clever and talented’ she says, and “our prices are cheap compared to other places”.

From another age and a different culture where things can be fixed, put right and made to work again, can we afford to lose him? He wants to stay. “Why should I retire, I would sit at home and die?” Lets help Mr Zia – he loves West Hampstead, he loves his work. “I want to stay in the area, this is important.”

We can do something. We can find him another small unit nearby at an affordable rent, or ask our councillors to help. If the community does not support him, a small business that kept us all ticking will stop.

Ideas  or suggestions – please write to whgara@gmail.com or direct to Mr Zia himself ziasundries@yahoo.co.uk

Planning Decisions and “Material Considerations”

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What must a local planning authority take into account when deciding on planning applications & what sort of factors or comments will make a difference?

Planning Decisions

Local authorities will grant or refuse planning permission primarily on the basis of planning law and their own development plans. Camden also has to take account of The Mayor’s ‘London Plan’, and in West Hampstead, the Neighbourhood Development Plan as well.

If an application complies with these plans, the law normally presumes that planning permission will be granted. If it doesn’t comply, the law presumes that permission will be refused. However, both these ‘presumptions’ are subject to a further test – ‘material considerations’.

The Government’s Guidance on making planning decisions says that:

‘…the decision must be made in accordance with the development plan unless there are material considerations that indicate otherwise’ (taken from Section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004).

Material considerations

A material planning consideration is a consideration which is relevant to the decision in question. Exactly what issues can be included as ‘material considerations’ are not codified in law, but in general, they have to be concerned with land use and the public good, not the protection of private interests. They may be pro or anti the application and may be put forward by the applicant, local people or anybody with an interest in the development.

Examples of issues relevant to development in West Hampstead that could be deemed to be material considerations are:

  • Overshadowing
  • Overlooking and loss of privacy
  • Layout and density of building
  • Overbearing nature of the proposal
  • Design and appearance of materials
  • Landscaping
  • Adequacy of infrastructure and / or social facilities
  • Effect on surrounding area (including conservation areas)
  • Archaeology

(Whilst many of these appear generally in Camden’s own policies, it would still be relevant to comment on exactly how they relate to a particular development.

Examples of factors that would not normally be considered are:

  • Loss of value to other properties
  • Market competition
  • Loss of a private individual’s view
  • Boundary disputes
  • Private covenants or agreements (covered by other legislation)
  • The applicant’s personal conduct, history or circumstances
  • The applicant’s motives or potential profit
  • Age, health, background or work patterns of an objector
  • Time taken to do the work, or other building or construction issues

The authority also has to take account of other planning considerations, such as:-

  • Draft proposals in the local development plan which have not yet been ratified.
  • Previous planning decisions (including appeals), for the sake of consistency

These lists are not exhaustive. Ultimately, it’s up to the courts to decide what constitutes a material consideration and this will depend on the circumstances of the case.

The ‘Planning Balance’

The process of weighing up all the competing factors is often called the ‘planning balance’. In making a decision, the planning authority must examine their development plans and take all the material considerations into account, according to their relative importance. This judgement is not the final responsibility of the courts. However, if the all various factors are not properly considered, the final decision may be unlawful.

References:

Royal Town Planning Institute: ‘Material Planning Considerations” http://www.rtpi.org.uk/media/686895/Material-Planning-Considerations.pdf

East Riding of Yorkshire Council: ‘Material Planning Considerations’ http://www2.eastriding.gov.uk/environment/planning-and-building-control/planning-permission/view-and-comment-on-planning-applications/

Government Planning Portal: ‘Planning Practice Guidance’ http://planningguidance.planningportal.gov.uk/blog/guidance/determining-a-planning-application/how-must-decisions-on-applications-for-planning-permission-be-made/

Planning Aid for London: ‘Planning Decisions and Material Considerations’ Leaflet http://planningaidforlondon.org.uk/uploads/london/mainsite/downloads/publications/leaflets/planning%20material%20cons%20for%20web.pdf