|More Powers Given to Officers as Ealing Change Planning Process|
Residents fear the worst as constitution altered
Ealing Councillors have voted to change the current planning process, sparking fears that more controversial applications could now be rubber stamped behind closed doors.
The proposals which were approved at a full council meeting on Tuesday (12th April) will increase the power officers have to make delegated decisions, and, at the same time ,reduce the number of planning committee meetings from 17 to 12 per year.
There has also been an increase of the size of application (from 15 to 50 units) that automatically goes before planning committee.
Victor Mishiku, who has long been involved with Ealing's planning department, is appalled by the suggested changes and sent in his objections. He said:
'' I find it inexplicable to read the bizarre suggestion that developments of up to 50 units should not warrant the attention of the Planning Committee. This could mean that 16-storey buildings (e.g. assuming 3 flats per floor) could be erected on the mere say-so of a Planning Officer without any involvement of the Planning Committee!
'' I totally oppose taking away from Ward Councillors and Members of the Committee the absolute right of elected Councillors to scrutinise and veto, if necessary, planning applications.''
The new head of planning, David Scourfield, wanted the constitution changed to enable more decisions to be made faster and to encourage a more 'business-like' approach to he handling of major applications.
The report says ''Ealing must “raise its game” to meet expectations and challenges.''
Conservative Councillor, Greg Stafford and Liberal Democrat Councillor, Jon Ball, both opposed the changes but the majority Labour group voted to press ahead.
Local residents and groups now fear this will mean more unsuitable planning applications will be approved, with no opposition.
Julian Smith representing Save Ealing Centre sent in a letter of objection stating:
'' We want to see greater involvement of our
elected representatives in decision making processes, and better provision for our views to
be made known to them, rather than less.''
Mary Di Lullo from Acton said: ''We do not want to see Planning Officers taking all the decisions behind closed doors and which are sometimes questionable with little consideration shown to the longstanding residents of the area some of whom have been living here for decades. We residents expect the Councillors we vote into office to help look after us in the public interest.
''It is well known that Planning Officers in Ealing have a very high turnover and many of them do not even live in the Borough; their knowledge of the localities and the people within them is far less than our experienced and longstanding Councillors who themselves do live in the Borough and sometimes even in the same road.''
Ealing Council say that any applications which generate local concern will still go to the council's planning committee for a decision. Residents will also still be able to make a request via their ward councillor, local residents group or conservation area panel for the application to be considered by the planning committee.
The changes will be reviewed in December.
14th April 2016 (updated)