For most residents getting to grips with planning appears to be very difficult – it shouldn’t be.
The Council is currently rewriting its Statement of Community Involvement which is designed to set out in plain English what residents should be able to expect from the Council to help us get to grips with planning, whether in drawing up changes to planning policy or getting involved in preparing a development brief for sites (eg the current on for the Brompton Hospital sites), as well as how to get to grips with planning applications.
The document should not only be a clear description of the process and give a clear indication of how residents can make an input, but also a clear statement of our “rights”. These “rights” take several forms:
- legal requirements under the Planning Acts and the Access to Information Acts for the Council:
- to consult residents when preparing plans or documents about specific sites, usually for a minimum of a 6-week period;
- to consult on a wide range of planning applications, for a minimum of 21 days;
- to give residents access to information, including all documents that were used in preparing reports, such as those on planning applications, which means access to the case file; and
- to give access to a range of environmental information.
- “rights” set out in the Council’s Constitution (Part 2, Article 3 and Part 4 C1), including rights to:
- information (see above)
- attend all Committee meetings, including the Cabinet;
- be given notice of meetings and access to agendas and reports at least 5 clear working days before the meeting and the minutes of the meeting;
- inspect background papers (see above); and
- address any Committee, subject to the chairman’s agreement: see http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/pdf/Guide%20to%20Committee%20Proceedings%20July%202010.pdf
Since these rights are not at present set out in one place, the Council’s forthcoming document – Involving People in Planning – will need to set this out very clearly. Access to planning should open to everyone and how to do it should be much clearer than it is at present. The document will be available by the New Year.