View from the council: Neighbourhood plans brings us together


- Credit: Archant

I last wrote in July, discussing planning in Camden and that whilst we have to work within the parameters that govern us at both a national and London-wide level, we always seek to push the limits as much as possible to focus Camden’s planning policies on our community needs.

Last week, Camden’s Cabinet and I were able to give our backing to the Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan, which now passes to full council for final adoption. If that happens then it will become the fourth neighbourhood plan in the borough. It relates to the majority of Hampstead ward and parts of Gospel Oak and Frognal & Fitzjohns wards. The three other “adopted” neighbourhood plans cover Fortune Green and West Hampstead, Kentish Town, and Highgate.

Neighbourhood plans must support borough-wide planning policies and be prepared by the community through designated neighbourhood forums. They are subject to public consultation, independent examination and a local referendum.

A key strand of Camden’s 2025 vision is collaborative working to “bring people and agencies together to get things done”.

We are currently working with London partners to assess how to tackle challenges that have been created by insufficient regulation around short-term letting. Presently planning permission is not required to let permanent residential properties on a short-term basis for up to 90 days each year. But, unlike in Paris for example, there is no requirement to notify a borough of an intention for up to 90-day short term use. This is making it difficult to keep track of properties straying over 90-days usage and into territory that would require planning permission. The danger is that without the ability to effectively enforce these rules much needed long-term housing stock will be lost to a growing professionalised short-term lettings sector. This results in less homes to rent and higher rents amongst the remaining stock. Plus premises being used as visitor accommodation places a whole host of pressures on surrounding residents and public services. A registration system similar to that used in other European cities is required.

Another interesting example of the local reality of unsuitable national planning policy involves phone boxes. In the modern age of mobile phones they have become somewhat redundant. Yet in the last two years in Camden we have received 170 applications for new phone boxes. We have successfully managed to reject many of these applications. But not all, as our grounds for rejection are limited by nationally set legislation. As stated by the Local Government Association, these applications are for “Trojan” phone boxes, with planning law being exploited in order to create lucrative advertising space for companies who are exploiting this outdated legislation.

I’ve written to the government to seek national change in order to tackle this issue. Camden’s residents don’t want this unwelcome street clutter, nor the anti-social behaviour issues that are often linked to unused telephone boxes.