Section 106 Agreements are formal Deeds made pursuant to Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (“the Act”) to secure planning obligations which are required in order to make a proposed development acceptable in planning terms. These legal planning obligations mitigate the impact of a proposed development.
There was significant and sustained community opposition in 2011-2012 to the Ballymore development on West End Lane – due to its size and height at the centre of our neighbourhood and one of the small consolations provided was the benefit of a new public space at the front of the site, designed to mitigate the huge cost to our environment of Ballymore’s seven towers. It was defined as a ‘public square’ at all planning stages and in Ballymore’s own marketing material at the time. Examples below:
From Greater London Authority Planning Report 25 January 2012 – TFL notes the importance of West End Lane as a strategic interchange and as such it is considered that the additional space at the front of the development forming the new square is a welcome addition to West End Lane and will benefit those walking between the stations with the perception of extra space and a calmer environment.
QUOTE JULY 2013 – Network Rail property development director Stuart Kirkwood.– “This development will bring benefits to the community delivering improvements to the interchange including the creation of a new public square…
There is also an explicit (and legal) condition in the Section 106 agreement signed in 2012 between Camden Council, Ballymore and Network Rail that, ‘It will be a facility for those in the wider community, both residents and workforce.’
The commercial Christmas tree sales operation Trees and Wreaths, obstructs access to a significant area of the space and hinders the use of the one remaining bench along the south side as well as the single roadway where their two vehicles are often parked. Both social distancing and the protective, correct use of masks by their staff seem haphazard.
Allowing this business to occupy the Square without contact or consultation with local people privatises this public space and shows a lack of regard for the interests and investment of community stakeholders – who’ve tried many times to engage positively with the Ballymore Group to maintain the amenity of the area over the past 10 years.
We suggest Ballymore consider more carefully the context and the history of this Square in future decisions about its use and not exploit it for commercial activity. Its importance rests on it being an accessible space, an invaluable asset now in such short supply in West Hampstead.
The idea that communities have a right to shape the future of their neighbourhoods has taken root in recent years.
Since 2011 people have had greater powers over the planning process, thanks to the Localism Act, which introduced a host of new initiatives to give residents a meaningful role in local development. Neighbourhood Plans were introduced to allow local residents to set the framework for how their area changes. Community Right to Build Orders were created to allow local people to develop without planning permission.
On the surface, these are radical policy reforms, but there have been relatively low levels of uptake. Why? These initiatives quite rightly include hurdles, in terms of local referendums, to ensure accountability, and also require long-term and dedicated resource. Planning and development are complex, particularly in a city like London.
These barriers and layers of complexity mean that most residents still experience the planning system through more traditional mechanisms, such as formal consultation on planning applications. Consultations tend to come at the end of the planning process and focus on giving residents a thumbs-up or -down to a specific proposal, rather than an ongoing discussion about how the neighbourhood may change.
This is why, despite the renewed emphasis on community engagement in planning policy, many people feel outside of the process and perceive that there is little scope for influencing new developments. And, on the side of the developer, too often community engagement is viewed as a planning risk to be mitigated, rather than as part of a genuine effort to involve locals in decision making.
How can developers and local authorities better engage local people in the planning process? Here are seven ideas. This list is not intended to be comprehensive. It summarises the discussion from a recent roundtable and identifies areas of consensus.
1. Be strategic
Currently, public debate and larger-scale engagement in strategic plans has been limited, including for opportunity areas planning frameworks and the London Plan itself. Creating a shared vision for a city of nearly 10 million people is clearly a huge undertaking, but the big debates about London’s future should inform the next London Plan, not simply respond to it.
2. Start early
Residents must be involved from the outset so that plans can be tailored in response to feedback, or even co-produced, with regular communication over the course of a project. Early and prolonged relationship building with local people can build a coalition of support, help convey the potential benefits, and also bring local knowledge to bear in scheme design.
3. Modernise methods
Traditional approaches to public engagement are often perceived as a tick box exercise. Other alternatives to the yes-no vote on specific proposals include welcome events, resident days, design exhibitions and exploring opportunities for local people to try new visualisation technologies.
4. Talk about money
Planning and development involves choices – between density and open space, between social rented and share ownership housing, between internal space standards and gardens, between parking spaces and bus stops. All these choices ultimately boil down to money – what a developer can afford to spend, based on the price they paid for land, the values they hope to achieve, and the profits they seek to make. Talking more openly about how these factors interact can result in a conversation that is more pragmatic, more open and ultimately more capable of reaching agreement.
5. Do what you say
Features of a development might be promised but then not delivered on, which can be toxic to existing relationships with the community. Expectations need to be better managed; some feel that the development industry can be reluctant to say ‘no’, and to explain the financial and other constraints that are at play. Local people are pragmatic and perceptive enough to understand the potential trade-offs, so there is certainly the capacity for greater honesty in the system.
6. Focus on the benefits
Successful developers have changed the narrative from simply ‘changing the built form’, to revitalising a community, through providing training, employment opportunities, community assets and facilities. Undoubtedly, communities want to see a lasting benefit from developments. Arrangements could be more formalised as a ‘deal’ between local residents and developers, where the community negotiates on their own behalf the benefits to be delivered from new building.
7. Embrace the ballot
In 2018, the Mayor of London introduced mandatory ballots for estate regeneration schemes seeking mayoral funding and including the demolition of affordable homes or homes which were previously social homes. Early experiences of the ballots have been positive. If there is a good turnout and a strong, positive response to the plans, ballots give architects and developers a mandate with local authorities. Balloting also makes developers ‘do more’; it can take more time and energy to get people on side (with numerous one-to-one discussions), but ultimately this will provide people with more detail and a greater incentive to put forward a more considered approach to design.
The Camden Local Plan 2017 includes policy A5 on basement development which updates and expands former basement policies. It places specific restrictions on the scale of basements and their impact. You can object and the Basement Impact Assessment is a good place to start.
Where the proposed development includes a new or extended basement a detailed technical statement must be submitted by the applicant assessing the impact of the development on drainage, flooding, groundwater conditions and structural stability. This information should be contained within a Basement Impact Assessment (BIA) which is specific to site and proposal.
Updated guidance 2018
- Planning Guidance: On 26th March 2018 the Council formally adopted Camden Planning Guidance : Basements. The Guidance was prepared to support the policies in the Camden Local Plan 2017. It should be read in conjunction with the relevant policies in the Local Plan. The Guidance replaces Camden Planning Guidance 4: Basements and Lightwells (July 2015).
- Audit review: Basement Impact Assessments are technical documents which must be prepared in accordance with planning policies and guidance and submitted with planning applications for basement development. The Council obtains independent audits of BIAs from Campbell Reith Consulting Engineers in order to ensure that they meet the technical policy requirements.
- Camden has produced a ‘BIA pro forma’ and a help note on ‘Defining the Scope of Engineering input to preparing BIAs’ in order to help applicants who are preparing planning applications for basement development.
The BIA will be submitted to an independant technical audit by Cambell Reith and covers the following details:
The soundness of :
a) the conceptual model with regards to ground and groundwater conditions
b) the consideration given to structural condition of neighbouring properties
c) identification of the likely impact on land stability and the structural integrity of the neighbouring properties
d) identification of the likely impact on hydrogeology
e) identification of the likely impact on hydrology
f) the scope of completed ground investigations with the presumption that invasive ground investigation should take place in all instances
g) appropriately conservative modelling used in reaching the BIA assumptions including anticipated structural damage categorised according to the Burland Scale, and conclusions (mindful that Campbell Reith shall use professional judgement in respect of calculations in the audit material and are not required to carry out any detailed calculations or checking of specific figures)
h) proposals for ongoing monitoring of groundwater levels
i) measures to ensure the on-going maintenance and upkeep of the basement and ground water management measures
j) temporary works methodologies, requirements and recommendations for construction contractors
k) the inter-compatibility of the assessments, findings and conclusions of all BIA
l) an outline methodology for monitoring and responding to ground water levels and structural movement
m) Identification of relevant cumulative impacts on land stability and local ground and surface water conditions arising from the basement development
It is established in UK law, in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 Section 198, that trees have value as a public amenity and therefore local planning authorities are given a duty to protect trees in the public interest.
CAVAT (Capital Asset Value for Amenity Trees) is used by the London Tree Officers Association as an asset management tool for trees that are publicly owned, or of public importance, to express their value in monetary terms directly related to the public benefits that each particular tree provides – as if it were a financial asset of the community. Applied to the trees removed last week behind Sherriff Road – and many others are planned for destruction by Network Rail this month in other communities along the tracks as far as Wembley – we have lost thousands of pounds of green assets.
Network Rail explains: “We appreciate that cutting back vegetation can be a sensitive issue and therefore take great care when planning this type of work. Vegetation work on the railway near to your property however is necessary so that we can maintain and operate a safe and punctual railway. We remove trees that are tall enough to fall into the path of a train or onto critical railway infrastructure. We also look to remove problematic broad leaf species (such as ash and sycamore) that can have a detrimental effect on rail adhesion which can lead to safety related incidents and disrupted train travel. We did also undertake an ecological survey and environmental appraisal for the vegetation works, in line with best practice guidance to identify any protected habitats or species”
Thousands of poplars, sycamores, limes, ash trees and horse chestnuts have already been chopped down across the country from Yorkshire to Dorset, and the scale of the potential destruction outlined in a Network Rail blueprint involves 10m trees growing within 60 metres of track.
Network Rail, the public body that owns and manages much of Britain’s railway infrastructure, disputes that millions of trees are at risk, and that its felling operation is secretive or represents a change in practice. After publication of this article, the organisation’s head of media, Kevin Groves, said in an email: “We are not a logging company or a paper making company – we have no need or desire to remove all the trees from the railway. Our job is to run trains, and run them reliably and safely and to do so we have to manage our lineside vegetation carefully and responsibly and that’s exactly what we do.” This enabled Network Rail “to both maintain and look after the trees on our estate, as well as remove dangerous ones and those minority of species that can cause reliability and safety problems in the autumn. Biodiversity matters to us.”
From Regulator – Office of Rail & Road (ORR) – Complaints about Network Rail
“Network Rail is responsible for the railway network. This includes:
- line-side maintenance including vegetation and fencing
- track quality
- environmental issues such as noise and vibration, pollution and graffiti
- railway structures such as bridges, station buildings, overhead lines, tunnels and signalling
- network maintenance, particularly engineering work and speed restrictions
- property issues including changes to use of railway land
You should try to resolve your complaint with Network Rail first.
We provide information on what Network Rail is responsible for and how you can make a complaint or enquiry. But Network Rail’s licence is designed so that our regulatory controls are at a high level, so we are unlikely to be able to intervene in many individual complaints.”
Over the last fortnight, people have woken to the sound of chainsaws and expressed concern at the lack of consultation and the scale of the destruction. Who are they to turn to? Who is holding Network Rail accountable?
Click on links below for further info & to have your say: