Deputation to Hackney Council
Wednesday 29th January 2014
Cazenove Area Action Group campaigned long and hard for the introduction of a Conservation Area to preserve and enhance our built environment. Earlier attempts – in the 1990s – had come to nothing and much damage resulted. So the designation of the area in September 2010 brought a sense of achievement and hope.
But designation is only the first step. Without adequate enforcement degradation will continue.
Two cases became totems of CAAG’s frustration of the failure of the Council to maintain what it recognized as ‘an important place in the residential architecture history of Hackney.’ The first was the destruction of the garden at 47 Cazenove Road with the loss of protected trees; the second was the failure to enforce the building Inspectorate’s ruling that 77 Osbaldeston Road should be restored to single-family dwelling.
The Deputation was led by two committee members of CAAG, Peter Cummings and Iain Bruce.
- CAAG has been established for over 20 years
- Hackney has good planning guidelines in place as recognized by the inspector assessing and validating Hackney’s 2010 Development Planning Document
- Northwold and Cazenove Conservation area was set up in Sept 2010 after a long campaign by residents
- o Cllr Nicholson, Cabinet Member for the Built Environment recognised the area as “an important place in the residential architectural history of Hackney…high quality and variety…distinctive and…retains streets…people want to live in and see…enhanced as time passes”
- The Living in Hackney Commission reported July 2011, making recommendations about improving resident and community involvement in planning.
- The Council’s Planning User Forum meets regularly to ‘improve the customer’s experience’.
Unfortunately…what we are seeing on planning is…
- Failure to apply planning and conservation area guidance with no clear rationale why not
- Basic process mistakes and lack of consistency between officers’ decisions
- Ignoring some council policy altogether e.g. the recognised need for family housing in the ward
- Management controls not picking up mistakes
And on enforcement….
- Lack of resources and resulting failure to act – only 20% of cases have any action taken (figure provided by Heads of Planning and Enforcement in 2013)
- Lack of pro-active engagement with offenders – too little, too late
- Long delays and lack of information about progress made available, residents constantly having to chase officers
- High turnover of staff meaning officers keep changing and resulting delays
- Case preparation issues with legal leading to more delays
- Serious tracking and monitoring failures
- Lack of confidence in planning and enforcement by residents
- Widespread flouting of planning laws and enforcement problems
- The conservation area is not being adequately protected leading to planning blight
- Planning speeding up but poor quality decisions
- Enforcement seems often overwhelmed
- Absence of communication co-ordination at working level between planning, enforcement, building control and legal
What we are asking for from the council….
- To recognise the problems in our area and prioritise an in depth internal audit review of processes in both functions.
- Endorse a working group drawn from resident’s associations and CAACs to work with officers to help improve performance and quality (service improvement).
- Direct officers to follow council policy or explain why not, so tightening up and improving officers’ reports.
- Endorse extending the already-agreed proposal of a planning checklist to officers as well as managers
- Direct the correction of errors in publicly available guidance and regular periodic review
- Consider steps needed to stabilize the staffing of the Enforcement team
- Endorse pro-active and rigorous enforcement to prevent problems and catch them earlier saving time and money
- Endorse on-line papers being integrated with planning documents utilising existing software to give public access to on-going cases