Hello. I work for Southwark Council's planning department. We usually consult our Arboriculturalists when a planning application involves felling mature trees but you can write to them directly. They're very passionate about arboriculture and good at their jobs, so it's worth lobbying them. Write to either Josh Tinker or Ernst Erasmus at Southwark Council, Tree Section, 151 Walworth Road, London SE17 1RY.
I'm really surprised that councils routinely allow this sort of this. A city is living space for people - it cant' be all contrete and tarmac. They should really give more protection to the trees and green space we have - instead of playing lip service to being "environmentally sensitive" and then rolling over any time a developer waves a wad of cash.
Well exactly! The point is...the bundles of cash. Horrible St.George are just FULL of the stuff and they dont care a bit about lording it over the council who are cash poor and terrified of legal action because they dont really have the money for lawyers like the developers do. That is how many inappropriate developments have been allowed all over England. It's just breath taking (literally!) when you think that all this talk of saving the environment and green spaces (by our lovely DPM who is, amongst other things, the Minister for the environment) is just a lot of posturing and at the meerest sign of dosh for the Party or a chance to bump up the housing statistics and all the lovely words go straight out of the window.
> I'm really surprised that councils routinely allow
> this sort of this. A city is living space for
> people - it cant' be all contrete and tarmac. They
> should really give more protection to the trees
> and green space we have - instead of playing lip
> service to being "environmentally sensitive" and
> then rolling over any time a developer waves a wad
> of cash.
Hmm, I'm not quite sure that's how it works. Firstly, as far as I'm aware, the Council haven't allowed the felling of these trees yet - the planning application is still under consideration. Secondly, the trees are probably covered by TPOs - Tree Preservation Orders (see http://www.southwark.gov.uk/YourServices/environment/Trees/TPO.html). Thirdly, talk of legal action which the Council can't afford to fight is somewhat wide of the mark, as a Council's decision will not usually be challenged in court but rather by appeal to the Planning Inspectorate (see below).
Can I also just say that as a planning officer for Southwark, I fully understand the frustration of people in this borough and in others about town planning-related decisions in London.
In our defence, Southwark Council and in fact ALL boroughs in London are *desperately* short of qualified town planners - most of my colleagues (and I mean about 75%) of them are temps or contract workers which the Council employs at huge expense in order to clear the workload. This includes several managers, including the Department Manager! And most of these are from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa - people in their twenties and thirties who come to London to make their fortune by exploiting this shortage. By which I mean, temps and contract workers are paid nearly twice as much as permanent staff such as myself. They stay for between six months and two years and then move on.
My point being that although they are hard workers and lovely people, realistically they don't have an emotional investment in the borough, nor an intimate knowledge either of the borough or its history. It would be nice to think that the case officer dealing with this application for Metro Central Heights was the same one who has dealt with all the previous applications for MCH, someone who knew the planning history of the site inside out. But unfortunately that's not the case - Andrew Pratt is a South African temp, and can't wait to return to his country.
Also - and this is one of the things I find MOST frustrating about my job - decisions on major planning applications are made not by planning officers, but by councillors, who aren't qualified in planning, know little about planning matters, and often make their decisions without fully digesting the planning officers' reports or sometimes without even opening up the plans. My manager once told me that she estimated about 50% of decisions made by planning committee or Community Councils (both composed of councillors) are made according to political considerations, and not planning considerations.
Another thing is - a lot of poor development goes up on appeal. In other words, the Council refuses a planning application on the basis of bad design; the applicant decides to appeal against the Council's decision; and the Planning Inspectorate, which determines these appeals, overturns the Council's decision. The Planning Inspectorate is based in Bristol. The Inspectors' knowledge of Southwark is, I believe, limited.
This happened to me last week. It is so frustrating. I refused a development in Peckham mainly on the basis of p*ss-poor design but also on amenity issues. The Inspector visited the site - it took about twenty minutes - then went away and issued a decision in favour of the appellant that dealt mostly with the amenity issues, while leaving the design as an afterthought. So yet another mediocre development gets the go-ahead, and Southwark's planning officers will, as always, cop the blame.
Planning is difficult. We have to Balance the often-competing interests of members of the public, developers, highway engineers, the architects, central government and the Mayor, and it's very, very rare that a planning decision is made that completely satisfies all of the above. For example, there are people who work for Southwark Council who *don't* want towers to proliferate across the borough - myself included. But the Mayor is heavily in favour of them, as is the Deputy Prime Minister. If an application for a tower ends up on their desks, it would make it very difficult - futile, indeed - for a Council to oppose it. Just look at the struggle Lambeth Council had with new tower in Vauxhall that John Prescott ultimately waved through.