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Monday, 23 July 2012

Wilmer Place: planning and the role of councillors

As you are no doubt aware, the planning application for the Wilmer Place has now been submitted. However, the application has not been validated yet so there are no documents or details for us to see. 

During the validation process the Council is required to check that the application contains all the information necessary to make a decision. We expect that this will take a few weeks from the date the application was submitted, after which the application will be published online and the 21 day consultation period starts. We will let you know as soon as this happens.

Over the past months a lot of people have asked us about the role of ward councillors in the planning process. We thought it would be useful to summarise this before the validation process has been completed:

  • Only a small number of applications are actually decided by the planning committee. Applications come to Planning Committee only if officers recommend permission is granted. They have delegated powers to refuse without reference to the Committee. Applications are usually referred to the planning committee if they are for large developments or - for various reasons - are complex. It is very likely that this particular application will be referred to committee.
  • Planning sub-committee is quasi-judicial process. The sub-committee comprises of just nine (+ 6 substitutes) of Hackney's 57 elected Councillors.
  • Councillors on the planning committee are not representing their political parties or their wards. This means that planning committee members cannot get involved in campaigns or give a view on applications. They have to approach their decision with an open mind and without prejudicial interest. This is planning law, and not unique to Hackney.

  • Councillors on the planning committee may decide not to sit on the committee hearing a particular application – this could be because the application is in their ward and they’ve been in correspondence and involved with residents over it, and therefore could be accused of having a prejudicial interest if they were to sit on the committee. Again – this is not uncommon and part of the Code of Conduct for all councillors. 

  • Councillors not on the planning committee won't have any say in the final decision.

  • What this means in Stoke Newington Central: Rita and Louisa are not on theplanning committee. Susan is on the committee, but as we have all been actively involved in raising our concerns with the proposed development and working with local residents on the issue, she will not sit on the planning committee meeting where any Wilmer Place application would be considered

  • Ward Councillors can however support and represent residents in their objections.
  • We can also have a formal role at the actual planning committee meeting (should this application get that far) and can speak on behalf of residents. We have done this on previous applications in our ward, and it is a common role that councillors undertake as part of their ward work. We will work out between us what the best way is to effectively use the time allocated to councillors at the committee hearing.

  • There is a fuller explanation of this in front of every planning sub committee agenda – see here for a recent one.    

  • As the planning application has now gone in, we will be making our own representation on the application outlining the planning concerns that we have been raising in recent months.

  • Once the application has been published online we will also circulate a briefing to local residents to help guide them when commenting on the application. This will summarise the planning system in Hackney, and identifies some of the key policy areas that you may wish to consider when preparing your response. Please email us if this would be useful.


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