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Sunday 10 August 2014 12.01am
JazzyQ wrote:
"local people are now totally fed up with not being listened to when they express their well-founded concerns about what is being planned in this, OUR home, and that we are starting to shout up more loudly about it"

I sat through the SPD call in meeting where councillors voted in zombie like fashion. They seemed surprised when one of the QH residents asked to be allowed to comment.

So what can we DO to make our voices heard?

I was at that fiasco of a call-in meeting too, JazzyQ, and a number of the "consultations" prior to that. That SPD was the flimsiest document ever. I recall it totalling around 30 pages. The objections I sent in totalled 24 pages. 'Nuff said.

To make our voices heard we need to have these kinds of discussions going on on forums, we need to continue sending in our objections to applications that we believe wil have a negative impact on our local area, we need to pool our efforts wherever we can across different groups and - as mentioned earlier by hhrca in this thread - our main recourse is really the law and, crucially, the ability for us to have access to funding for judicial reviews and call-ins.
Sunday 10 August 2014 10.14am
bumbly, thanks for the feedback, as i said, we went through every single planning application and comments (there's lots of screen grab images of people's comments, which are proof enough that something is seriously wrong)

when we started this particular project, i remember wanting to record how individual councillors voted but i think the council minutes only say 'approved' (perhaps tell you the vote count but that's about it, i know there was a reason why we didn't include this data) - i know james publishes this (how they voted) for planning meetings he gets to go to, which is incredibly helpful and indeed shows that, regardless of what the committee chair pointlessly tells us, the labour party committee members tend to vote in the same way. regardless of what local residents think and regardless of whether they're meant to be 'representing' those local residents or not.

as for the planning officers themselves, some are simply arrogant and will declare things are 'complex' (nothing is too complex so it can't be explained - if they can't, could it be they don't understand it themselves?); there's also the really useful 'boris will say no' argument - uhm, let him? boris' record on 'sense' (as opposed to greed) is highly contentious, whether you look at the pollution, cycling and general transport disaster, wanting another 'legacy' airport, you name it;

as far as i'm concerned, there are two key things to think about when looking at national, london and local policy documents, namely the bits which are open to interpretation, to an extent and the bits which are quantified (eg 35% minimum 'affordable' housing requirement). 'interpretation' can actually, and quite often, be fairly unambiguous, (i can't think of an example right now but will do!) yet, as often, we are told that the exact opposite is in fact the 'correct interpretation - here's a recent camberwell example - a developer put in a planning application for housing & 'mixed community use' (artists studios) development on a site which, at the time, had some 30-40 artists studios. planning application was approved, although local residents had concerns about the scale/density of the housing (and impact on existing services/infrastructure) and housing tenures ratio. council's 'spin' for camberwell is all about promoting/supporting the arts, arts super-important for camberwell, we love camberwell because it's all about the arts etc you get the drift. then at some point the developer realised, oops, we're not going to make anywhere near as much profit if we do rebuild those artists' studios, so we're not going to, not viable. and this too was happily approved, meaning the 40 artists (who so matter to the council and especially local labour councillors who tend to, in the runner up to elections, wax lyrical about how important camberwell is to them, how much they care) had to find alternative spaces, none of which are in camberwell. the 'interpretation' that you 'support' the arts by not providing any room for it to happen in the area is not just double-speak but deeply offensive, perverse thinking which we are to accept as 'normal' (imagine if you were to run around the streets completely naked and argue you are in fact fully clothed if anyone asked you)

the quantified bits are there for a reason. if a developer is required to build minimum 35% affordable housing but then goes 'aah, we don't get to make as much money/we'll need to build separate entrancies etc', there are other developers.
Sunday 10 August 2014 12.35pm
pros thank you so much for your detailed reply. Everything you have said resonates with me completely.

I would only have the stomach for trawling through the planning decisions for 2010-2012 and 2014 if I thought the results could be put to constructive use, otherwise I could be using my time better on planning issues in this area.

I think it's highly significant that james records the individual votes by political party when he goes to meetings. My objective in this is to make a case for the voting patterns of the current planning committee in my area to be brought under review. I make no secret of my views on this, and it has come about because of the countless examples of what appears to be block voting by the Labour councillors on the planning committee. When the Chair states at the beginning of each meeting that the committee is not whipped I often wonder how he keeps a straight face. If I thought we could do something useful with the whole of the voting pattern data from 2010 to present, I would be really happy to work with other interested parties, such as james, on this.

My biggest issue with the system we have at present is that for the sake of "democracy" (!) the planning committees do not report into someone or some department that lies in between the Secretary of State and/or the High Court. The leap from a contentious application being voted through at planning committee level to getting that called in is just too big because call-ins are usually only used for applications of national significance; and the leap to judicial reviews is also too big since these are usually unaffordable for residents - that is why we see so few of them. In the case of call-ins, if the same type of party line voting occurs at both the voting through meeting and the subsequent call-in, how on earth is that ever going to produce a different end vote? The Blackfriars Road Draft SPD was a classic case of this.

I am interested in the key points you feel are important in terms of looking at policy:

As far as affordable housing is concerned, I get the fact that it's quantifiable by the 35% but in reality this means nothing - I cannot recall any recent planning application that has come in anywhere near that figure; the developers start with a ridiculously low figure and then anything they do in the way of increasing that figure is greeted with "gratitude" by Southwark's planners. Example: Oooh look, they started at 19% and now they've agreed go up to 27%. Give the elephant a bun! The scenario of developers failing to hit the 35% target and being replaced with other developers just never seems to happen. So from what I have seen, affordable housing is not a factor that is ever going to make any significant difference in planning applications.

And as for "Interpretation", I don't know how that is allowed in policy documents because it is such a loose term. What happened in Camberwell is reminiscent of what happened with the Union Street small businesses who fought against being evicted in order to create more offices in the area and were overruled by the planning committee. Although I wasn't at that final meeting, I was told afterwards by a ward councillor that when someone raised the point about the 8,000+ signatures on the petition the traders had launched, the response from Southwark was that it only counted as one vote because everyone had said the same thing. Funny that - I thought that was the whole point of a petition?????

I am really glad you started this thread, pros. We are facing a lot of issues but it's good to see that people aren't prepared to just sit back and be ignored by Southwark Council. Lots of locals are becoming more and more organised and I look forward to being a part of this process.
Sunday 10 August 2014 1.44pm
i think i used 'interpretative' as planning policy documents aren't quite 'law' (in the more straight-forward sense) but it's precisely this 'interpretation' which is a matter for legal proceedings - the time during which residents can now ask for a judicial review is now even shorter, i think it's either 4 or 6 weeks which is quite deliberate, as both residents and their solicitors need time to get stuff organised, so the less time we have, the better for them.

agree re having/not having stomachs for stuff, the audit wasn't exactly fun and games but worth it, if for no other reason than to try and understand the scale of whatever it is that is happening. saying that, i wonder what would come out if we/anyone were to audit every single council dept (decisions/processes etc) :)
Sunday 10 August 2014 3.06pm
Something I found just now in the Observer to add to the discussion.
I met George Turner, who is mentioned in the article, at a day organised by Just Space and liked what he had to say.
Here he mentions legal challenge, which seems to be a weapon in our armoury if other methods fail.

It does feel a bit like David and Goliath, but look who won that
Monday 11 August 2014 7.30pm
JazzyQ wrote:
Something I found just now in the Observer to add to the discussion.
I met George Turner, who is mentioned in the article, at a day organised by Just Space and liked what he had to say.
Here he mentions legal challenge, which seems to be a weapon in our armoury if other methods fail.

It does feel a bit like David and Goliath, but look who won that

Interesting piece JazzyQ and good to have these articles on our radar.
Friday 22 August 2014 4.47pm
Now here's an interesting one in the news:

Centre-right think tank Policy Exchange says: "The report calls for the demolition of high-rise social housing estates that are “beyond recovery”, and links tower blocks with high crime rates, weak communities and poor health and education among residents."

I wonder why it is that tall residential towers consisting of luxury flats for the wealthy and (if we're lucky) a bit of (but always way under the required 35%) affordable housing thrown in, are being railroaded through planning when research sbows that they don't work well at all for social housing?

An interesting discussion to be had here I think.
Friday 22 August 2014 6.58pm
Saturday 23 August 2014 5.56pm
Council Housing made sense when local working families with good references were given priority.

Labour destroyed this principle in the 1960s and allowed need alone to determine allocation.

Until Council homes are allocated once again to people who have been living, working and paying tax in the local area, you will see these huge imbalances between poor and rich enclaves in our area get worse.

Don't blame the developers or the planners - unfortunately we all have to live in a capitalist system - the blame lies with politicians who have created and perpetuated these poor ghettos to provide an easy source of welfare-dependent voters.
Saturday 23 August 2014 7.53pm
Floodplain when we became council tenants we had to produce our marriage lines! and childrens birth certificates and my husband had to prove he worked and lived in bermondsey...not difficult as he worked for the BBC ( Bermondsey Borough Council!) and had lived in Guinness flats since born almost, and the flats were being pulled down! Being housed according to need was a good idea in principle, we had to go to Bermondsey Town hall to put our name on the waiting list and was given a card with a number on.. Newcomers moving into the borough with very large families were given priority over people who had lived in almost dickensian conditions after the war, were pushed to the back of the queue. Often wonder if the tenements were not pulled down we would still have been waiting for a council property only having one child! My poor old mother in law often joked that the only was she would get out of guinness's would be in a box after 30 odd years...she died 5 months after being moved.
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