The Kensington Society has challenged and criticised the process used for the pre-application of planning of building projects in the borough. The Chairman of the Society, Amanda Frame, in its annual report described the system as ‘flawed from beginning to end’.
‘We have for many years and with increasing fury called for changes in the pre-application advice process. We have seen time and time again – Dukes Lodge, the Odeon, Newcombe House, Kensington Forum – pre-application advice encouraging developments which the public oppose.
‘The process is totally in isolation of the public – it is exclusively officers and developers. Never is the public allowed, much less invited, to meet with and express their opinions and aspirations for the developments. As a result, the officers have no idea what the public expects. The officer’s report appears to have been written more as a marketing brochure than a critique of the development.
‘As an example, the Kensington Forum application had nearly 900 letters of objections and four of support, yet the officer recommended approval. In all cases the planning committee refused the applications.’
Ms Frame went on to talk about being in ‘new territory’, with the Mayor of London having called in the London Forum – ‘but we know not why’. The Secretary of State can then get involved, as he has with Newcombe House and put a stop notice on the development, and there is no indication of how long these processes can take. There could even be another public inquiry.
She said: ‘The process of pre-application advice without public consultation from beginning to end is flawed. After an application is submitted, the public objects, no meetings are held with the public and the officers, the officer’s report praises the application ….and then…..or now the mayor steps in. The system is a mess.
‘I am not surprised when I am told that developers and even architects will not work with RBKC!’
The Kensington Society was established in 1953. Its aim is to ensure its part of London retains its magnificent heritage of buildings, parks and gardens alongside the best of contemporary architecture and design.
With 700 members and 30 affiliated societies, the society is very active in planning issues and exerts a real influence on planning decisions. It also has a programme of lectures, talks, walks and visits. Membership is £15 a year and for information email firstname.lastname@example.org.