Sunday, 7 October 2007

Newsletter 3 - Urgent action needed…

Hackney council is proposing to introduce a policy where properties in streets in Stamford Hill, around Queens Drive and in Cricketfield Road are deemed to be within ‘areas of exception’ where normal rules relating to planning will not be applied. We believe that all residents of Hackney should receive the same protection f r o m inappropriate development wherever they live in the borough. It cannot be justified that different rules to apply in different streets, such that developments which would not be allowed elsewhere, are approved in our streets.

Some of our streets have already seen too many inappropriate developments leading to noise, loss of light and privacy, and damage to the integrity of the ‘streetscape’. There have been too many full width dormers (effectively adding an additional story to the property) and gardens that have been either wholly or largely in-filled to provide additional rooms. This overdevelopment is not for the good of the community, as it all too often provides substandard rental accommodation where landlords exploit vulnerable tenants. This proposed policy will go to the Council’s Cabinet for approval (probably in November).

None of the Cabinet members represent residents in the affected areas and it looks as if our streets are to be abandoned to rogue landlords and property speculators. Hackney Planning Watch has little confidence that Hackney Council is either willing or able to exercise its planning regulation function effectively. Unless we, as residents, monitor the situation, they will allow our neighbourhoods to be destroyed by allowing inappropriate developments.

Please help…

  • Hackney Planning Watch has produced a detailed report calling on the Secretary of State, Hazel Blears MP, to intervene and stop this policy (which we believe may be so unreasonable as to make it unlawful).

  • Please visit our website and download a copy: If you agree with us then please send us a letter or email stating that you wish your name to be added to those already endorsing the report.

  • We are calling on residents to undertake a street survey of their own street to identify developments that have no planning permission and those which are operating as unlicensed bedsits or (also known as ‘houses in multiple occupation’). Surveys already undertaken by our supporters have been submitted to the Council with requests that enforcement action is taken. Please write to members of the Council’s cabinet calling on them not to agree this policy and ask them to meet with residents to hear our concerns.

    For contact details of cabinet members please visit:

  • Call a street meeting and get the views of your neighbours and agree to monitor proposed developments in your street for compliance with Council policies.

  • Please sign our on-line petition:

    Legal challenge

  • Please consider if you are eligible for ‘legal aid’ and if so whether you would be prepared to help take a test case regarding the legality of the Council’s proposals

    We believe that the council’s proposals are so deeply flawed that they would not survive a legal challenge by way of judicial review. However such action is potentially very costly, so we are seeking volunteers who are residents of the area and who may be eligible for legal aid. If you feel aggrieved by this policy and you meet the criteria below please let us know. Are you in receipt of:

-Income Support

-Income-based Job Seekers' Allowance

-Guarantee State Pension Credit (under section 1(3)(a) of the State Pension Credit Act 2002(a))

If so let us know!

  • Join our list of supporters and we will keep you informed of upcoming events (send us your email and address).

    Hackney Planning Watch was established by local residents in 1998 when Hackney Council had devolved planning decisions to neighbourhood committees.

    At the time, Hackney was going through one of its periodic crisis and there was widespread concern at malpractice in the planning department and a perception that the Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Committee was corrupt. Eventually, we were forced to take a judicial review against the council in relation to a particularly extreme example of malpractice. The council was forced to concede the case, pay our costs and right the wrong. Soon afterwards the planning function was recentralised.

    However, the council continues to approve developments that are contrary to its core policies. As recently as July 2007, the planning committee approved a development that will see the complete in-fill of the back gardens of two adjoining houses in a residential street. This was in conflict with any number of council policies, and will result in a series adverse effect on the amenity of neighbours. Despite a petition and a well-argued case against the development, it was nodded through by councillors. Now they intend to make it a formal policy that they will not apply the usual rules in some of our residential streets.

    The proposed areas of Exception

    Hackney Council is proposing to create three ‘areas of exception’ where its planning policies on residential extensions will be applied differently to elsewhere in the borough. These ‘areas of exception’ are the streets around Stamford Hill, an area around Queens Drive and on Cricketfield Road. In these areas, developments will be allowed which would not be granted permission elsewhere in the borough.

    What is the justification for this policy?

    According to the council’s policy document ‘some parts of the borough contain a large number of front roof exceptions, often consisting of full width box dormers which are contrary to current policy …in recognition of the existing situation within these areas, and the continuing needs of particular local communities, the policy will be applied with greater flexibility’.

    In other words, in those areas that have already suffered developments that are contrary to Council policy, rather than see enforcement action to right these previous wrongs, the Council intends to relax the rules so we can expect more of the same! The council’s proposals are deeply flawed, and many streets within the proposed areas of exception are unspoilt (but presumably will not remain so if this policy is approved).

    We acknowledge that some streets in the borough are in a mess, with huge amounts of unauthorised development, including the complete infill of some back gardens.

    However, the biggest problem seems to be that the Council’s planning committee has routinely authorised developments which are contrary to agreed policy. In other cases, where the council has refused planning permission, the developers have gone ahead and the council has failed to take enforcement action. The Council has been roundly criticised by the Local Government Ombudsman for these failings (see

    At a time when they are not applying the existing rules, we dread the consequences of a relaxation of those rules.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting reading. If you think Hackney is bad then take a look at Haringey -it is happening here too.
These scum developers/landlords are playing the system and hoping no one is paying attention to what is happening to our neighborhoods.
We as residents looking into an illegal conversion on our street are pretty sure some planning officers are taking back hander to 'turn a blind eye'.
I will be happy to give more details as to what we've uncovered if anyone make a comment to my post.