Tuesday 27 January 2004 10.16pm
I don't know what Becket and York Houses are, or the area you are talking about as the bit of SE1 I lived in was off Grange Rd, however the following may help:
Briefly, your best approach to objecting to the development is to go through Lambeth's Unitary Development Plan and find any policies which you think the proposal contradicts, for example if it would generate a lot more traffic where the Plan may have a policy to reduce traffic. It's a tedious process, but in the end planning decisions are based primarily on what is in the UDP and your best chance of stopping a development, or at least getting it altered, is to show that it contravenes local policy. If the park is in a Conservation Area, look at the policies regarding CAs and see if there is anything saying that their character will be looked after - then show how the development would adversely affect it.
Check what the development site is allocated for in the UDP - if it's allocated for offices then it will be harder to object to office development there (even more so if the existing buildings are offices), but if it is not then you have a better chance. If it is, then you can still object on design matters etc. (e.g. a 13 storey block in an area where there are no other high buildings could be seen as over-intensive development).
You can only comment on the application itself i.e as shown on the plans. There won't be any point in commenting generally that investment is needed in local public facilities as that is not what is being considered by the Planning committee. Though, Lambeth may be able to get some form of contribution towards your park from the developer if the office development does go ahead, especially if you have a management plan in place. You could make some suggestions - being positive is always a good move and could lead to local benefits if the offices are eventually built.
You should be given 28 days from the date of the letter from the planning office to comment. It sounds like you only got about 16, that is not acceptable. If you need more, I suggest you contact the Case Officer, if no good then the Head of Planning and if still no joy, then the Chair of the Planning Committee. Councils have an 8 week target within which they are supposed to deal with planning applications and this can lead them to try it on a bit ( I have just gone through an application with Southwark Council
where they actually turned it into 2 separate applications which together took 4 months to decide, I suspect so that they could actually say that they did each one within the 8 weeks !.)
I work for a planning consultancy (not Montagu Evans !) and have been involved with lots of Environmental Statements. As far as I can remember, they have always been submitted as part of the planning application and therefore become public documents. For many developments they are a legal requirement and so must be made publicly available. It sounds very strange that it is not available via the Planning Office. I'm not sure what you can do, I think I would ring the Case Officer to check on this.
You may well already have been involved with them, as your groups seems very organised and on the ball, but if not have you tried Planning Aid for London - a charity where professional planners give their advice free to community groups which can't afford to pay for it ? Their site is www.pafl.org.uk.
I hope this is of some use. Planning is horribly complicated and there are no hard and fast rules, each application is decided on its own merits and according to local circumstances which makes it impossible to give very definate answers to your questions. In Southwark, I have found it useful to get the support of particular councillors, which I'm sure you already have.
I have been on maternity leave since last April, so my grey matter has been more concerned with baby feeds, nappies and staying sane than the intricacies of the planning system, so please don't rely on everything I've said as being gospel !
By the way, I am not 'northernboy', I am his partner, I can never remember my SE1 password so use his name.