Westminster Council is currently consulting with the amenity groups, including the Belgravia Residents Association, on how to increase the engagement within the community during the pre-application process and decision-making process. The engagement is particularly important given our location in central London where residents are frequently impacted by larger development projects.
It should be noted that there is no legal requirement for applicants to engage in either a pre-application process or with the community, even if they do enter into a pre-application consultation process. So the culture change involving more interaction and pre-application consultation by the applicant will be on a voluntary basis.
Why does this matter to you? The Belgravia Residents Association is a recognised amenity group and so we need your feedback if we are to represent the views of residents. We hope you will take a moment to drop committee members an email with your views and suggestions.
The Council has developed a concept of 3 forums (Level 1 and Level 2 would be supported via an additional fee to the applicant):
Level 1 Forum
Major developments are often associated with strategic planning and are considered by the Major applications Committee. The idea is for the forum to occur with members of the Major Applications Committee, local Councillors, and various local community groups. The development will impact on both the immediate and surrounding areas so the number of stakeholders is likely to be large.
Level 2 Forum
These developments are smaller but perhaps as contentious and so the application would appear before a Planning Applications Sub-Committee. The Forum associated with this will include all members of the relevant Planning application Sub-Committee, local Councillors and various local community groups or other interested stakeholders.
Level 3 Forum
The idea for small scale, non-contentious planning applications, is that the Planning Case Officer could recommend that the community engagement is led by a Ward Councillor(s).
The Council is looking into introducing public speaking rights during the decision making process. They are currently considering and obtaining feedback on the concept of including three public speaking slots of three minutes each at the Level 1 Forum. One slot would be allocated to the Applicant and another to the Resident/Amenity Society. The third slot could be allocated to the Ward Councillor.
Level 2 and 3 Forum’s would offer two public speaking slots, also of three minutes each. The Applicant would be allocated one slot and it has been suggested the other slot is allocated on a first come, first served basis.
One of the items under debate is how to make this work efficiently, fairly and transparently as the slots are so limited. On occasion feelings can run high on planning matters and a larger number of stakeholders might wish to talk, some in favour of an application and some against an application.
Further reading: https://www.westminster.gov.uk/new-dawn-planning-westminster
If you would like to give us some feedback on this topic please drop and email to: