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Planning Ahead

Issue: Dec '12 TW Mag

I can’t believe that Dawn’s wonderful magazine is already onto its fourth issue for our area of South Twickenham. I am sure you are finding it very useful. So it is my turn again for the councillor page. My colleague David Porter, who is Chairman of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee, wrote a very useful article on recycling last month.

As I am Vice-Chairman of the Planning Committee I am going to write about planning process as it is my specialist interest over the ten years I have been councillor. Our Planning Department receives over 4,000 applications per year. About 95% of them are uncontroversial and the officers approve them under what are called delegated powers. Many applications will have been advertised in the Richmond & Twickenham Times and by a site notice, say on a laminated A4 sheet attached to a lamp-post or you might have received a letter about it. If you object, and it is your right to do so, the application may come to the Planning Committee.

Let’s look at this from both sides. If you want to build something that requires Planning Permission the best thing to do, once you have had plans drawn up, is to discuss them with your nearest neighbours. I think it is only good manners to let them know and they should appreciate your honesty. If your application eventually goes to Committee it will also be in your favour that you alerted your neighbours at an early stage.

You can apply online on the Council website on a very straightforward form. Or you can go to the Civic Centre in Twickenham and get a paper copy. The fees vary but are reasonable. You can also get in touch with your councillor who can speak to the officer on your behalf at an informal level and help smooth out any hiccups before they become serious and delay matters.

You can, if your application is large, ask to meet the Planning Officer for what is called a pre-application meeting and discuss all the possibilities. The officer can give you lots of options that you might not have thought of. The officer will tell you what the Planning Department may pass and what it won’t. There is sometimes a fee for this service. Domestic applications should normally be dealt with within an eight week period and major ones in 13 or 16 weeks. Sometimes though, if there are problems, these time limits are overshot, but you will have a designated officer to deal with your application and guide you.

On the other side of the coin, what do you do if you get wind of an application very close to you and you want more details? Again, you can go onto the Council website and type in the address or go to the Civic Centre and ask at the reception desk. Either way you will be able to read the whole application and see the plans. Do look at them carefully and work out what its affect on your house will be. Make sure you are not going to be overlooked by windows in the new development. Mind you if you are already overlooked that may not count as an objection!

I realise that I am at the end of the article and I have neither touched on how to present your objection at Planning Committee nor how that works. Like Scheherazade I will have to tell you about that in my next article! Speaking at Committee is a very important part of having your local voice heard. If you have any planning queries do give any of your Councillors a ring; that’s what we are here for.