|Increase in Complaints Over Ealing's Planning Notices|
Criticism over the way residents are informed about local applications
Ealing's way of informing residents about upcoming planning applications has been strongly criticised.
The new system which started in July saw an end to 'neighbour notification' letters which have been replaced with ‘lamp post’ site notices near a proposed development.
According to the February 2015 cabinet budget reports, the current administration agreed to save £30,000 in Planning Services budget. However, it's argued that the cost saving has led to a rise in complaints and concerns from residents resulting in more costly re-consultations.
Planning expert, Victor Mishiku, says he has recently been contacted by an Acton resident who had not been informed about a local application. He says this meant she lost her chance of objecting to the application; contacting her Ward Councillors for support; asking for an officer site viewing; asking for a visit by the Planning Committee, and the opportunity of speaking for three minutes at Committee.
He says, ''I think that the withdrawing of Notification Letters was a very short-sighted act by the Council and I hope that one day, it will be reversed, perhaps when a few Councillors find themselves victims of this new hostile planning system.''
Conservative Planning Lead, Cllr Joanna Dabrowska, says the new planning notification policy isn't up to the job.
Cllr Dabrowska said, "Since its introduction the number of enquiries in my mailbag has ballooned. Many have resulted in inadequate consultation and the need for a re-consultation. This inefficiency has increased the council officer (and senior management intervention) time spent on dealing with such enquiries and then repeating the planning process. With the added potential of unscrupulous developers taking down the signs leaving residents none the wiser, this makes a mockery of the planning system.
''Too often this delays the determination of planning applications and also puts further strain on an already busy planning department. The Labour administration are making cuts for cuts' sake instead of looking at cost efficiencies. This is a false saving as the hidden cost of dealing with the additional workload will exceed the planned savings.”
Cllr Dabrowska demands that Ealing Council reinstates the previous neighbour notification policy as soon as possible.
Hounslow Council are currently piloting a system funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government in partnership with Neighbour Net the publishers of this site. Planning notices appear on the BrentfordTW8.com and ChiswickW4.com sites and in their weekly newsletters as well as on social media. Ealing Council were invited to participate in the project but declined.
Ealing Council say there were 19 complaints to planning about lack of consultation last year (which was 25% of the total). In the six months since the introduction of the new system there have been 9 (14% of the total so far this year). There have been no re-consultations.
Council Leader Julian Bell said, "It is nonsense to suggest that the changes we have made have led to more complaints, there have actually been fewer complaints under the new system. We will make the savings we have budgeted for, it is factually wrong to say these savings are more costly. It tells you everything you need to know about the Conservative opposition group that they have made these claims without asking officers for the actual numbers.''
December 3rd 2015