When you live cheek by jowl in a small, tightly packed borough like ours, one Council department that can end up having quite an impact on your life is planning. Planners and the planning committee make decisions about all sorts of things that can lead to delight or despondency – depending on what side of the application you sit.
So I suppose it’s inevitable that there will be the odd grumble or complaint. But, while I readily accept people’s rights to let off steam and to raise concerns I have far less patience with those who, the moment a decision goes against them, take to the internet to traduce anonymously the Planning Department.
It should go without saying that anyone with an iota of evidence for corrupt practices shouldn’t waste their time with anonymous trolling but should instead call the police. But I’m not expecting that to happen anytime soon because I don’t believe such evidence exists. Everything points to our Planning Department being entirely upstanding and doing a difficult job.
And that’s not baseless assertion. The data is there for anyone to see.
Kensington and Chelsea is one of the most expensive and contested development areas on the planet but 92 per cent of major applications get dealt with within 13 weeks, which is amongst the fastest in the country and in the capital.
About eight out of ten regular applications are dealt with within eight weeks. On the face of it that is an average performance but when you factor in that many of those applications relate to basements, listed buildings and conservation areas, it’s pretty impressive.
As for those alleged errant decisions, well over the last couple of years less than one per cent of 6,000 decisions were appealed, and of those appeals we won sixty five per cent of them. What that should tell you is that against the most well-lawyered developers and objectors in the world, our decisions hold up.
Moreover, our planning enforcement team is now the toughest in London and many a developer has learnt that Kensington and Chelsea is not the place to bend the rules. Take stop notices which can bring work to a halt on site when serious planning breaches occur. Our team issues more such notices than any other council in England. So much for being cosy with developers.
And so much too for those trolls who, when things don’t go their way, attack good, conscientious officers from the anonymous caverns of the web.