The Society has made representations to RBKC jointly with The Kensington Society about the composition of a Quality Review Panel to provide advice on prospective building developments in the Borough. We wrote to express our surprise and concern at the lack of transparency and consultation by the Council in making the appointments.
This panel will play an influential role in determining the Council’s response to planning applications and to planning policy more generally. It is important therefore that its composition, terms of reference and methods of operation command public confidence. We would have expected that before coming to any view of its own the Council would have consulted widely with civic organisations, including but not limited to ours, to seek out their views. But no such consultation has taken place, despite the fact that both Societies had raised concerns at a senior level about the previous panel, so our interest was well known to Council officers.
We are also extremely concerned about the complete lack of any local representation on the panel. While it seems to contain a good mix of skills, it is noteworthy that none of the members is based in the Royal Borough – most seem concentrated in Camden or central London Boroughs south of the river.
We noted that on the Hammersmith and Fulham panel there are not only a number of local architects both large and small but also representatives of the Hammersmith and Fulham Societies. We have therefore asked the Council to appoint to the panel a member nominated by The Chelsea Society and another appointed by The Kensington Society.
Members may wish to write to the Leader of the Council, Cllr. Elizabeth Campbell, to let her know their views on this important matter.
We have now received a letter from Cllr. Thalassites, Lead Member for Planning at RBKC, as follows (with our comments in square brackets):
The Council understands the points that have been raised about the recently set up Quality Review Panel.
To that end, we have invited The Chelsea Society to nominate a representative to participate in a review of how the panel is working over the coming months. This review may look at terms of reference and membership. [We think this is a delaying tactic. There is no reason why one representative from The Chelsea Society and one from The Kensington Society, should not be appointed to the Quality Review panel now. They will participate in any general review of how the panel is working.]
We do think that an advisory panel, which urges developers to bring forward high-quality design that respects Chelsea’s distinctive heritage and conservation areas, can enhance the quality of development in our community. [We do not disagree. Our point is that “high-quality design that respects Chelsea’s distinctive heritage and conservation areas” is a matter on which the two Societies have long and detailed experience, and should have formal representation on the Panel. The Chelsea Society has been addressing this very issue for more than 90 years]
However, Chelsea Society members have a unique voice on the local stage and we want to harness that voice in planning matters. [Yes. That is why a representative of the Society should have been appointed to the Quality Review Panel, and should now be appointed before its next meeting].