Saturday, March 29, 2008

Planning issues...

An artists impression of the new proposed Sainsbury's on the site of the Portswood Bus Depot
-an application of much interest

One of the most enjoyable and interesting jobs I've had since being elected has been to sit on the Planning & Rights of Way Panel of Southampton City Council. I have to say the quality of the panel members varies enormously- some like me clearly read the papers prior to the meetings and go and visit the sites- others, from the questions they ask, I am not so sure...

The other interesting thing is panel members priorities and the weight they give specific issues in making their deliberations. for example Cllr Sue Blatchford is a very experienced, hard-working and articulate panel member- but seems obsessed with the green and sustainability issues of applications, the siting of refuse areas and doesn't seem nearly so concerned with the impact new developments will have on existing communities. For myself, I seem to bang a very lonely drum for the importance of good quality urban design and the need for new developments to fit into the context of there surroundings...

Anyway all that is by the by. I write an occassional newsletter on planning issues for the interest of Residents Associations- reproduced below is my latest copy.

Southampton Planning Update Spring 2008
Personal Reflections on Planning & Development Issues
from Councillors Matthew Dean & Jeremy Moulton

DCLG to launch pilot reviewing planning controls of HMOs in Southampton
After much lobbying by the previous Council’s administration, Residents Associations and officers, the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) has agreed to run a consultative workshop discussing issues arising from the prevalence of large numbers of HMOs in certain parts of the city. On April 2nd, Council Officers, representatives from the private housing sector, a Residents Association will meet members from the DCLG to discuss planning law and how it might usefully be reformed to protect and enhance local communities.

Oakmount Conservation Area
On Monday 17th March the Oakmount Triangle character appraisal and neighbourhood design statement was approved by Cabinet.
This marked the conclusion of a long drawn out process that had taken over twelve months from conception to conclusion and was only achieved by the persistence of residents in driving the issue forward. The new design statement will greatly protect the area from unsuitable developments, being a statutory document that must be considered when all new planning applications are considered in the locality.

New Conservation Team
The job specification has been produced for a new Conservation Team Leader and was signed off by the Council’s Head of Planning & Sustainability on the 25th March. This means that the department will start the recruitment process in April. As a significant strengthening of the Council’s capacity in this area, one of the first jobs of the new Conservation Team Leader will be to appoint a new Conservation Officer. Jeremy Moulton commented, “For many years the council has been far too reactive, only responding to new planning applications as they are submitted by developers. Matt Dean & I want to see the creation of more conservation areas in appropriate areas of our city and for the conservation team to review which structures are listed in Southampton; too many old or interesting buildings seem to have slipped through the net”.

Now the Lab-Lab pact wants to consider charging you for parking outside your own home!

At the first Lib-Lab cabinet meeting since taking control in February, the administration announced plans to consider charging residents for parking outside their houses. Jill Baston, Cabinet member for planning and transportation, was reported as saying in The Echo: "We will be looking at ways of making residents' parking self-funding. Many other cities charge for all residents' parking permits so this is one option we will be considering."
Local Conservatives have announced their strong opposition to the scheme.

Local Development Framework Core Strategy Submission Document withdrawn once again…
The Local Development Framework core strategy
was withdrawn for consideration by full council on the 19th March following further concerns being raised by central government. Southampton was the first Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH) authority to submit its draft LDF and was felt to be ahead of the game but has had to substantially rewrite the drafts of its LDF on two occasions at the bequest of central government. At the last stage of the process when Southampton’s LDF was considered by the Government Office for the South East of England (GOSE) in September, they seemed happy with the general thrust of the document but felt it was generally too long and detailed and that the spatial vision and strategic objectives needed to be set out more clearly. However, the position seems to have changed markedly since then. The indications are that the LDF if submitted by Southampton in its current form would now be rejected due to a fairly serious moving of the goalposts- and that is before the Planning Inspectorate has had a look at it!
It seems the key points of issue are that Officers have not produced a detailed ‘infrastructure plan’ outlining where and how Southampton’s infrastructure supporting developments would be realised and interestingly a concern about house numbers. There is a suspicion that government is keeping its powder dry as the new Planning Bill works it way through parliament. Certainly the feeling at the council is that it is a bit late in the day to start asking for such things given the hoops the LDF has already had to jump through. It seems the way forward will be a fairly high level meeting between Council Officers and Senior Civil Servants to resolve the issues. Certainly if the situation continues to drag, the implications for Southampton could be quite serious- no LDF means no real new planning framework for developers to work to. Although the current core strategy was adopted in 2006, most of the data stretched back to 2000. No core strategy also means no new core strategy documents which is potentially serious in Southampton where the council has aspirations to use ‘Section 106’ monies more flexibly and to develop policies such as the protection of family housing via the issuing of supplementary planning guidance.

We will update you of progress or otherwise next issue…


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