WHGARA – 11 years on

cropped-whgara-logo-2.pngWest Hampstead Gardens and Residents Association (WHGARA) was started in 2011 to oppose inappropriate rear extensions at the back of adjoining houses in the neighbourhood. It evolved into an activist campaigning group to protect West Hampstead’s social, environmental and community assets during a period of intense change and overdevelopment. 

At first our membership covered Hemstal Road, Sherriff Road and the roads between and we welcomed residents from other nearby areas to join as friends. Below is a list of neighbourhood issues which we’ve been involved in over the past years.

OUR ISSUES, CONCERNS and ACTIVITIES

Commenting on impact of developments:

  • Buildings too high and / or too large,
  • Destroying character of the area and setting a precedent for further over-development,
  • Too much residential development without sufficient education, health or transport infrastructure,
  • Insufficient proportion of affordable housing,
  • Loss of affordable business space,
  • Architectural design and landscaping issues
  • Wholesale destruction of mature trees

WHGARA’s represents the views of local people whose lives will potentially be affected by over-development, putting forward our opinions to appropriate individuals and organisations with the aim of influencing decision-making locally..

Actions Taken:

  • Monitoring development proposals as early as possible and obtaining information prior to submission of planning applications
  • Keeping members informed about what’s happening and discussing this at meetings / via Zoom, email etc
  • Attending public exhibitions and consultations about forthcoming developments,
  • Commenting on and where necessary objecting to proposed developments prior to planning application stage, by writing & speaking to local councillors, other council members, council officials, the local MP, Network Rail, developers and any other involved agencies (Thames Water, TFL, London Overground, etc)
  • Representing members’ views at Development Management Forums and providing feedback to WHGARA membership
  • Studying council planning policy in detail and assessing whether it conforms to Camden, London Plan and NDF Plan.
  • Direct action: Tree Vigil & objections to Camden Tree Section, opposing Network Rail tree felling programme,
  • Supporting and Liaising with other local groups campaigning against excessive development, e.g. Save Swiss Cottage, Save West Hampstead: Stop the Blocks,
  • Formal responses to planning applications.
  • During construction – representation on Community Construction Group re construction issues – e.g. traffic, noise, pollution.

Interests in Immediate Neighbourhood:

  • The tube station – urgent need for step-free lift access
  • Traffic management and road & pavement safety on West End Lane
  • Excessive and potentially damaging residential developments
  • Noise (e.g. scaffolding alarms) and unsocial hours noise
  • Loss of Private trees and monitoring LBC Street Tree Management
  • Litter and Fly-tipping
  • Erratic waste management and collections
  • Local crime: lack of police cover
  • Homelessness and rough sleepers
  • Opposing excessive & ugly advertising – estate agents’ boards, promotional phone boxes and pavement clutter

WHGARA is apolitical and aims to represent and support all the views of local people  to influence outcomes where possible. As a responsive, informed local group, we engage with issues on behalf of residents and ratepayers without fear or favour.

Engagement:

  • Informing residents, members and friends about current and future issues – bringing topics to meetings for discussion and decisions -by vote
  • Communicating our views to relevant authorities, council members, officers, the police, trades people etc
  • Open dialogue with local ward councillors.
  • Inviting guest speakers from local police, basement development experts, local councillors, council officers (street environment), StreetSafe team leader, Veolia etc
  • Responding to formal consultations about council policy, petitions, planning and licencing applications.
  • Monitoring webcasts of formal meetings about council policy and decisions.
  • Contact with other local groups e.g. WHAT, CRASH, the NDF, MILAM, RedFrog,NW6 and other residents’ groups.

How to Comment on Camden Planning Applications

Local authorities grant or refuse planning permission primarily on the basis of planning law and their own development plans. Camden also has to take account of The Mayor’s ‘London Plan’, and in West Hampstead, the Neighbourhood Development Plan.

The Government’s Guidance on making planning decisions says that:

‘…the decision must be made in accordance with the development plan unless there are material considerations that indicate otherwise’ (taken from Section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004).

Material considerations

Exactly what issues can be included as ‘material considerations’ are not codified in law, but examples that could be used to object effectively to an application are:

  • Overshadowing
  • Overlooking and loss of privacy
  • Layout and density of building
  • Overbearing nature of the proposal and height
  • Design and appearance of materials
  • Adequacy of infrastructure and / or social facilities
  • Effect on surrounding area (including conservation areas)

(Whilst many of these appear generally in Camden’s own policies, it would still be relevant to comment on exactly how each relate to a particular development.)

The authority also has to take account of other planning considerations, such as:

  • Draft proposals in the local development plan which have not yet been ratified.
  • Previous planning decisions (including appeals), for the sake of consistency

The ‘Planning Balance’

The process of weighing up all the competing factors is often called the ‘planning balance’. In making a decision, the planning authority must examine their development plans and take all the material considerations into account, according to their relative importance. This judgement is not the final responsibility of the courts. However, if the all various factors are not properly considered, the final decision may be unlawful.

References:

Royal Town Planning Institute: ‘Material Planning Considerations” http://www.rtpi.org.uk/media/686895/Material-Planning-Considerations.pdf

How to contact Camden Planning

·        Comments about Planning Applications – both large and small – can be made online through the Planning Portal (see Links) using the Application number which usually starts with the current year and ends with a capital P ie 2022/—-/P but there will be no confirmation of receipt in return, your post make take three days to appear or go missing altogether so it is a good idea to write & post a recorded letter or email a copy of your comment to the Case Officer named in the application.As Camden’s IT can be unstable, this gives extra security that your comment will be noted & logged.

Post your comments to : Planning Application Comments /Regeneration and Planning Development Management, London Borough of Camden, Town Hall, Judd Street, London WC1H 8ND                                                              

·        Many planning applications are simplistic, short on detail and accompanied by inscrutable drawings. There is a reason for this. It gives the applicant scope to expand or modify the work after planning has been granted. Nowadays there is less supervision from Camden during building works so scrutiny at the planning application stage is very important.  Watch out for applications which play down the extent of development to be undertaken or drawings which are unreadable or misleading. A general vagueness and mystery is intended to limit objection. Although the Planning site is not very user-friendly and clicking through the the list of documents may be unexciting, take the time to study the material attached to the application. It will be worth it!