CROYDON COMMENTARY: A borough alderman and former chair of the council planning committee, ADRIAN DENNIS, pictured right, suggests that the council may have failed to follow the letter of the law in the planning notification for Well Cottages
Apart from the obvious injustice revealed in the story of the Cane Hill cottages, as reported by Inside Croydon, the case also highlights the fact that Croydon no longer carries out proper public consultations on planning applications, not even meeting the minimum requirement of a site notice attached to the property affected.Decent planning authorities still consult everyone affected, including all near-neighbours. But Croydon dropped this under the last Tory administration, saving a little money by not consulting. This Labour council has continued to fail to consult on planning applications and continues with this injustice, despite the problems having been pointed out to them many times.
I recall Well Cottages during my visits to Cane Hill when I was the chair (and later cabinet member) of planning and environment on the council. Although I have sympathy with the case I will not comment on the main issue that is being taken up by the local MP.
However, I would draw attention to the lack of public consultation involving all planning applications in Croydon, which is certainly a big part of the problem here.
During my time, the council would consult every neighbour and the property involved by letter, and as far as reasonably possible all others affected. In addition, where the site was affecting a wider area (such a Cane Hill), site notices were displayed.
I was particularly insistent on this rule being followed (and I seem to recall it may have been in standing orders) as I worked as a principle planner for the London Borough of Southwark, who despite carrying out even wider consultations (probably the most thorough in the country) was widely criticised on national television for failing to consult properly on a particularly difficult case. The case highlighted the need for proper consultation.
Croydon has never achieved the sophistication of consultation carried out by Southwark but it did a reasonable and acceptable job of informing most people in the immediate area of an application. That is no longer the case.
I should stress that I am not making a political criticism here, other than the fact that this council has done nothing to put the situation right.
It was the last Conservative administration that cut public consultation on planning applications to an absolute statutory minimum, as a cost-cutting exercise. The statutory minimum is either letters to a property and adjoining neighbours or a site notice attached to the property.
Over many years, the planning inspectorate has accepted that a site notice attached to a lamp-post or tree immediately outside a property was acceptable, but this has not been tested in case law.
In Croydon, the planners were lazier and attached site notices on nearby lamp posts and even on lamp posts or trees on the opposite side of the road (which cannot meet the statutory requirement in law). I and others have pointed out this lack of satisfactory public consultation and have been ignored.
This situation was known to the Labour administration before they regained control, but they have done nothing about it.
In the Well Cottages case, it is worth considering that the tenants only saw a site notice on the other side of the track from their home. I do not feel that this meets the statutory minimum for public consultation.
- Adrian Dennis is a Professional Chartered Town Planner. He was a Croydon Labour councillor from 1986 to 2006, with planning responsibilities within the Labour group from 1994 to 2006
- Inside Croydon is Croydon’s only independent news source, still based in the heart of the borough. From April to June 2017, we averaged 32,000 page views every week
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