Give residents a fairer hearing in Planning Committees, says Camden Green Party

8 December 2016

Camden Green Party and Highgate Green Councillor Sian Berry are arguing for a change to the way Camden Council's Planning Committee meetings are held, to give residents more opportunities to express their views on controversial developments.

The way Planning Committee hear residents' views has not changed since at least 2002. It forces residents to give any objections to a development in one five minute segment – meaning that if there are different groups with different perspectives, they must share this time.

As well as being inadequate time to hear from residents in complex planning cases, Sian has seen over many years how this makes it more difficult for residents without experience of public speaking to get their points across.

Exceptions are sometimes made, such as with the big Kings Cross development, where more time for objections was allowed, but in recent years the Planning Inspectorate have brought in some better processes, including those used at the recent appeal hearing on Mansfield Bowling Club in Highgate, and number of major road planning processes Sian was involved in during her work as a road campaigner. 

These new processes are less formal and intimidating, involve splitting hearings up to hear about each key planning issue in turn, and give residents the chance to put up their hands and correct anything that was wrong with the applicants’ statements. Sian argues lessons should be learned from these new ways of doing things to improve the way controversial applications are heard in Camden Council’s Planing Committee meetings. In a letter (click to download) to Labour Councillors Heather Jones and Phil Jones, who are responsible for planning, she suggests reforming Planning Committee proceedings so that:

  • Residents could contribute to the discussion at the most appropriate time for each issue, discussing each major bone of contention in turn 
  • Residents with different issues to raise would not have to share a single presentation
  • Planning committee members would be more focused on considering each key issue and would hear arguments over key points of difference in a more structured way

Sian has suggested a trial run of Planning Committee meetings using this new format. So far both Labour and Conservative Councillors have said they won’t consider making changes. In this week's Camden New Journal they say that residents already get a good hearing, but we’d disagree and want to keep talking about possible reforms.

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