Residents' Groups Write to PM About Wandsworth Planning 'Bad Practice'

Council blast 'nimbyist' approach and say allegations are false and groundless

Four leading residents' groups in the borough including the Putney Society and the Wandsworth Society have signed a strongly worded open letter to the Prime Minister asking for an urgent independent review of planning procedures in the borough.

The letter, which is also signed by the Clapham Junction Action Group and the Friends of Putney Common, states that they are concerned about the fairness and legitimacy of planning in the borough. It goes on to say, "there have been too many examples of bad practice for this to be ignored.”

It has resulted in a robust response from the Council who have accused the amenity groups of adopting a 'nimbyist' approach and described the complaints detailed in the letter as 'false and groundless' and their evidence as being based on 'a skewed and wholly selective picture of the local planning system'.

The residents' groups have also written to Wandsworth Council leader, Ravi Govindia, explaining their reasons for appealing to the Prime Minister. They say that the have expressed concerns to the Council on numerous occasions but the final straw was the result of the recent consultation into the Local Plan which they believed showed that their concerns were being dismissed.

A spokesman for the groups said, “Many residents have lost faith in the fairness and impartiality of the planning procedures used by Wandsworth Council. We have attempted to engage with the Council to get them to follow their own local and also national policies, but to no avail. Our analysis of recent planning decisions makes damning reading. We hope that David Cameron, who has always supported Localism personally and as Prime Minister, will respond to our appeal for an urgent review of what is going wrong in Wandsworth.”

The letter cites issues which concern them as representatives of the residents of Wandsworth which stretches from Battersea in the east to Putney in the west. They claim Wandsworth Council has been guilty of ignoring policies and guidelines related to key planning concerns: General Development Principles, Managing the Historic Environment, Tall Buildings, Methods of Visual Representation, Supplementary Planning as it relates to Housing, Affordable Housing, Conservation and Heritage matters, Residential Properties, Transport and Offices, and Consultation.

The letter goes on to say that however impressive the Local Plan related to planning and development might seem on paper, the guidelines and policies enshrined in that document are useless if they are consistently ignored by the Council. The adopted Local and Planning Policies are only treated as loose guidelines which can be ignored at will.

In calling for the Prime Minister to set up an urgent independent review the letter says:
“Your government has rightly placed localism at the heart of the agenda for reforming local
government practices, and indeed you have said you are a 'confirmed localist'. When
launching your party's local government campaign in Nuneaton last year you rightly
criticised the 'top down, target-driven, big bossy, bureaucratic, we know best arrogance' of
some local authorities and declared that this had been 'turned upside down.' The detailed
information provided with this letter unfortunately shows clearly that Wandsworth Borough
Council is falling far short in putting localism into practice in its planning procedures. It has
failed to listen to its residents and the groups that represent them, on numerous occasions.
We are therefore requesting that an independent review into Wandsworth's planning arrangements is set up urgently to trigger the necessary change. “

A council spokesman said, "Planning decisions are made by ordinary local people who have been elected to represent the wider community. They make hundreds of decisions each year having weighed up all the available evidence, including all the arguments in favour of permission and also all those against.

"Their difficult task is to balance competing interests for the benefit of the whole community - to improve the borough's built environment and to provide new homes, offices, schools, shops and other economic benefits like jobs. The council has worked in partnership with organisations like the Putney and Wandsworth Societies for many years with the shared aim of creating a better borough for people to live and work in and we are proud of our record.

"Unfortunately this letter and the evidence presented alongside it is based on a skewed and wholly selective picture of the local planning system. All our decisions are based on planning legislation and we scrupulously follow out own local guidelines where these do not conflict with national planning rules. It is always regrettable therefore that some people have a more NIMBYist approach and choose to hurl false and groundless allegations around when they don't get their own way."

April 7, 2014

Related links
Related links

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Open Letter to David Cameron (PDF)

Wandsworth Council Tax Rate Unchanged