Sunday, 28 October 2007

It's certainly never dull when dealing with Hackney Council

We have now received a letter from the Government Office for London. It appears that the Council may not have a legal basis for the policy document that includes the proposed areas of exception.

This is quite a technical point, but a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) cannot make council policy, it can only give guidance on existing policy. The proposed SPD relied on three Council pre-existing Council policies, two of which have lapsed (it appears the council forgot to renew them), the third of which applies only to conservation areas.

Consequently it appears doubtful that the Council can adopt the SPD without first adopting some basic policies.The Council is suggesting that it can rely on a general 'plan for London', the principles of which the Council has adopted, but this seems unlikely (or should I say 'desperate'). The Council intends to continue with its existing proposals.

We have been led to believe that the Council may remove the phrase 'area of exception' which is viewed a problematic, but they are currently committed to the substance of the proposals. The latest proposed timescale is that the report will go to Cabinet in December, but there is every reason to suspect that this timescale will be extended. In any event, our campaign must continue to build in strength.

The accidental lapsing of important Council policies is of course a typical Hackney Council 'cock up', but what does it mean for our campaign? Well the good news is that it makes it even harder for the Council to simply ram through the existing proposals, and consequently more likely that we will, eventually, get them amended.

The bad news? Well it appears the Council no longer has any policy on residential extensions! It is therefore possible that unscrupulous developers with good lawyers can appeal any application (however outrageous) that is rejected on the basis that the Council has no policy grounds for rejection.

What have we done?
We have written to the Mayor, Jules Pipe seeking a meeting. We will also be seeking a meeting with Diane Abbot to discuss this matter further. Our hope is that they will agree to meet us at a meeting open to all Planning Watch supporters (but not a public meeting as our previous public meeting demonstrated how difficult it is to find a venue large enough).

We are also undertaking legal research to establish whether we have strong grounds for Judicial Review. We currently have one 'volunteer' who may be eligible for legal aid in relation to this matter, but we definitely need more applicants. If you fit the following definition and are willing to speak to our lawyer (currently giving his services for free!), please let us know) :

a) Own a flat or house within one of the areas of exception, and
b) in receipt of Income Support, Jobseekers' Allowance or Pension Credit.

What you can do?
We still have a number of streets that need to be leafleted, Volunteers to leaflet these streets would be much appreciated:

Adolphus Road
Blackstock Road
Brand Close
Brownswood Road
Gloucester Drive
Kings Crescent
Somerfield Road
Wilberforce Road

Street surveys
If anyone wants to survey their own street, then please contact Jane, who is co-ordinating this. We currently have 11 streets where we have a survey. It's easy to do, and only takes an afternoon. It will help if when we speak about the proposed areas of exception we have more information than the council officers!

'Street watch'
We are hoping to develop a network of people who are prepared to regularly check for developments in their streets. It merely involves logging onto the Council's website and checking for new applications. This should only take an half an hour once a fortnight, but it will ensure that we have visibility of proposed inappropriate developments before the date for comments and objections has passed. Anyone with a computer with internet access can do this (if your too busy, why not ask your kids!).

Next steps
Please let us know your ideas for what we should be doing next.

Also here is notice of another planning issue that you might want to support.

What's happening in Durlston Road?
As you may have noticed, number 62 Durlston Road has undergone major building work over the last 2 and a half years. The garden space has been completely filled in by an extension with a roof terrace on top. 6 air conditioning units have been added to the side and rear of the house and the garden wall has been knocked down to annex the council-owned alleyway between 60 and 62.

All of this has happened without planning permission and without any consultation with the people living close by.If you've ever wanted to extend your house or build a roof terrace, you will know that both planning permission and consultation are a required part of the process.Some of our local streets have already seen inappropriate developments leading to noise, loss of light and privacy and damage to the integrity of the 'streetscape' - this overdevelopment is not good for our community.

Hackney Council are currently proposing to sell the alleyway between 60 and 62 Durlston Road despite the fact that it was illegally taken over, they are allowing work to continue without planning permission and our neighbourhoods are being destroyed.

If you are worried about any of this, please come along to a meeting on November 1st at 7.30 at Tower Gardens Estate Community Office, 2 Inglethorpe House, Tower Gardens Estate, London E5.

Did you know?
Hackney Council plans to exclude 30 streets in Stamford Hill from normal planning protection, extension restrictions will be relaxed & dimensions increased. Hackney Council feels that the streetscape is already damaged by abuses of planning permission, due to a period of corruption within the planning office, yet many of the streets included in the draft have been untouched & remain true to their Victorian character. Consultation ended with the majority of the residents affected unaware of the proposals, no letters were sent out, a small article in the local paper made some aware. Stamford Hill streetscapes have a unique Victorian character, the area of exclusion would allow the character & heritage to be lost to inappropriate developments, & increase the density of occupation in already crowded streets. We, the undersigned, object to the sale of the alleyway between 60 and 62 Durlston Road. The alley was annexed without permission or consultation and should be restored to its previous usage immediately.



Kris said...

while friends are always great in helping with legal cases, legal aid is a huge advantage.

A council will always be able to brief top barristers to run even the most unattractive of their cases, leaving you and your volunteer swamped and, sorry to say it, outclassed.

With legal aid, hackney's barrister will have to deal with another of the same or even better class. Then there is the issue of costs- where again, your legally aided friend has the advantage.

Anonymous said...

Good on you the Enforcement of Hackneys planning controls is laugable.

Anonymous said...

This is a note to alert you to the fact that the Mecca Bingo Hall in Hackney Road E2 is applying for a variation to its licence. The change to the licence will allow, in effect, the conversion of the main foyer into a slot machine arcade. Now, although this email is sent entirely in my private capacity as a local resident, I work in the crime sector and have serious professional concerns about the prospect of a slot arcade being permitted in Hackney Road.
I believe there is evidence to suggest that there is in some circumstances a visible correlation between gambling shops and certain crime patterns - especially anti-social behaviour, robbery, burglary and thefts from cars. It may be that patrons commit crimes to feed their gambling habit; it may just be that some gambling shops attract criminals; or it may be pure coincidence.
I believe that there are enough gambling venues in Hackney - almost every new shop seems to be a bookmakers.
While the Bingo Hall is an excellent and long-established social venue that allows people to meet and interact with their friends, a slot arcade is designed purely to separate people from their money as efficiently as possible. Placing this in a poor, socially deprived area is a shockingly cynical way for Rank to make a living.
The new licence will allow people to play slot machines from 9am, seven days a week; this will increase the hours of operation of the building and cause annoyance to local residents.
If Rank is proposing to use the Hall foyer for other purposes, I am sure that dozens of local residents could suggest alternative uses for the space. I don't believe we should allow a slot arcade in the area; if the space is available, let it be used for a real, sustainable business that will employ local people and improve the quality of life of people who live around here.
I know you are busy people; but I urge you to please write to the Licensing Authority and tell them that you oppose the plan. Closing date for comments is 29 May (Thursday week). The address is:

The Licensing Authority
Licensing Service
London Borough of Hackney
263 Mare Street
E8 3HT

Best wishes