Planning law is complex and extensive and we would never put ourselves forward as experts.
We have, however, acquired by experience a good deal of knowledge about the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the system and are happy to share this with you.
The first thing to understand is that Camden, as a Local Planning Authority, only has the powers conferred on it by statute and that these are, in many ways, very restricted. So, although we may think, in many instances, that ‘something should be done about it’, it is not always possible to achieve the result we would like to see.
In addition to statutory requirements, Camden is required to take into consideration, when considering planning applications, the policies laid down in its own approved Plan. Most of Hampstead and the surrounding areas are designated Conservation Areas and here account must also be taken of the published Conservation Area Statements and Management Strategies. These are valuable guides to the sorts of development which will or will not be allowed.
As a rule of thumb, it can be said that planning permission must be sought for all kinds of building development, changes of use and basements in a Conservation Area and for most work elsewhere. The principal exception is for interior alterations, unless the building is ‘listed’. Hampstead and the surrounding areas have more listed buildings than most and, if you are lucky enough to live in one of these, you must seek permission for virtually all work.
What happens to a Planning Application?
Camden receives the second highest number of planning applications in London and, of these, a disproportionately high number come from the Hampstead area. Something like 90% of applications are dealt with by officers without being subject to scrutiny by councillors in the Development Committee. While it is clear that a large number of applications cannot be allowed to take up valuable committee time, we are very concerned to find that cases which contravene planning policies and are harmful to our environment are, all too often passed by officers by what are called “delegated powers”. This precludes us from any chance of influencing the outcome.
All applications should be notified in the local press, posted outside the premises and on-line.
If the decision is to refuse consent, only the applicant has a right of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate and, if funds allow, from there to the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, and in our view wrongly, there is no appeal allowed against a grant of planning permission, except by a very expensive route to the High Court and even if this can be afforded, there are severe restrictions on the allowable grounds of appeal.
Immediately you realise that an application has been made to which you object, you must get your objection in to Camden promptly. The period of public consultation is only 21 days from the publication of the application.
Please always contact Camden and also contact us if you know that development is taking place without planning permission.
What does the Society do?
We scrutinise all planning applications in the Hampstead area and make written observations on and objections to any which appear to have a potential for harm to our built environment. All this takes a great deal of time by unpaid Committee members to whom we owe a debt of thanks.
We believe that a regulatory system is only as effective as its enforcement ability. We have pressed this matter on Camden for a number of years and we believe that much more officer time and money must be devoted to enforcement. There is little point in spending millions on development control if it lacks teeth.