Saturday, 28 September 2019

Draft Local Plan

Waltham Forest's consultation on the Draft Local Plan is nearing its end. The experience was illuminating as now it is clear why it seemed such a farce. I have been involved with the Local Plans for many years and after the first one, about 30yrs ago, I decided it was too much work for very little gain.

Now it is clear it is worth no work as there is a guarantee there will be no gain! This may sound like a cynical old man speaking but the reality is more true than I had realised. It started with a friend of mine, who lives in Bromley, saying their council might have their planning powers removed because they were not reaching their housing target. This struck me as being draconian!

I attended the launch of the consultation about the London Plan and was horrified by the way Jules Pipe (Ex Hackney Mayor and now Chief Planning Officer of the GLA) wanted every little space built on and up to increase London's population by 3million! At the Waltham Forest consultations the officers made it clear that unless they agreed to these terms they would have their planning powers removed!

So coming to the detail this year Waltham Forest's new homes target from the GLA was 825 homes per year. Next year they have to ensure 1,800 new homes are built. The process means the officers have to identify every site, large and small, where homes can be built to meet the target. If they argue the target is too large the Planning Inspectors, who have to evaluate their Local Plan, could easily decide the figure is too low and should be increased! This give the council an incentive not to oppose the target from the GLA. 

The end result is there is no point in arguing as the officers have their hands (and their careers) tied and no one is prepared to fight. So we as residents might say that the Victoria and Central Line are at capacity, which no one denies, but that is no reason not to build more homes. Planning does not take in to account utility supplies, or Health Services or Schools so the chances are if the 3 million figure is reached London will just grind to a halt!

Adjacent to Waltham Forest is Meridian Water site where 10,000 homes are planned so why does Waltham Forest have an increased target when such a huge development is on its doorstep?

We all know the Government is in a mess and normal business is barely ticking over, but it now turns out, according to an article in the Evening Standard last night, which says the London Plan has been assessed by the Planning Inspectors who say that the GLA target of 65,000 is "undeliverable" and must be reduced to 52,000 which presumably means our Draft Plan target of 1,800 will be reduced! 

The whole process is wrong - you cannot design decent homes in a top down manner it has to be bottom up, and if by the time the figures get to the  Government and there are not enough homes being built in London, then a new town like Milton Keynes has to be planned for. So why was this not done as soon as Milton Keynes was finished - another fine mess various Governments have got us in to!!