Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Planning Process for the new Willesden Green Library applications

Philip Grant Writes:
On Saturday 10 November I received a duplicated letter from Andy Bates, Brent's Planning Officer dealing with the Willesden Green Library Centre applications, giving details of them and how to comment on them. Mine was one of about 2,750 such letters, sent to "consultees and neighbours". It includes the statement:
'If you wish to comment on these applications against reference 12/2924, your views will be taken into account on BOTH applications provided they are received online or via post, within 21 days of the date of this letter.'
As the date of the letter is shown as 7 November 2012, this effectively says that I have to submit any objections or other comments by Wednesday 28 November 2012 at the latest if they are to be taken into account in deciding both the planning (ref. 12/2924) and conservation area consent (ref. 12/2925) applications. This is no doubt why the Full Details page for application 12/2924 on the Brent Planning website says: 'This case will be decided no earlier than 28/11/2012'.
Although I have already posted the first online "comment" on this application, I cannot really consider what my objections or other comments might be until I can see the plans and read the, no doubt voluminous, documents which make up the application. Both the letter and website say that these 'should be available to view by 13 November 2012'. Two weeks to read and digest all of this information, then submit detailed and well-argued views on the application is a tall order, but this is what anyone who wishes to put in an objection to the planning application within the Statutory Consultation Period will have to do.
Brent has its own statutory responsibilities in respect of Galliford Try's planning application. Because of the number of housing units involved, it counts as a "major development", but as long as it is a valid application, Brent has to determine it within 13 weeks of the date the application was received. This would be by 1 February 2013, but in practice the decision would have to be taken at the Planning Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday 16 January. What with such a complex planning report to write, and the Christmas / New Year holiday period, it is no wonder that Andy Bates wants any comments by 28 November.
Despite the impression given in the letter, there is a different situation for comments on or objections to the Conservation Area Consent application (ref. 12/2925). Public Notice has not yet been published about this application, and the time limit for objections etc. will be 21 days after the later of the posting of notices near Willesden Green Library or advertising details of the application in a local newspaper.
The Consent application for partial demolition of the 1894 library building will not be decided by Brent's Planning Committee, but will be referred to the Secretary of State for a decision in the event of the Council being minded to grant planning permission for the redevelopment of the existing Library Centre site. This has been confirmed to me by Chris Walker, Brent's Assistant Director (Planning & Development), in an email of 9 November (copied to Andy Bates):
'As the revised application still involves a partial demolition of the library building within the conservation area it would remain my view that the application should be referred to the Secretary of State.'
Any comments made on the consent application have to be passed on to the Secretary of State (in practice, to the Communities and Local Government Department's National Planning Casework Unit). If Andy Bates is advising people to make a comment covering both applications, this suggests that the full text of all comments or objections on the applications will be forwarded to the Secretary of State, as well as being taken into consideration on the planning application. I will check this point with him.

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