View from the council: We’re putting residents at heart of future decisions

Councillor Danny Beales

Councillor Danny Beales - Credit: Archant

Local planning issues are often in the news, an area of controversy and debate.

Camden has one of the highest numbers of new planning applications each year. These vary significantly from the smallest tree application, to major developments of hundreds of homes or Google’s new HQ. Camden is place of much change and significant pressure. There are well established communities, distinctive urban villages and active local groups and associations.

This is a context for great change and dynamism and planning plays a key role in positively shaping this change. Camden 2025 outlined the hopes residents have for Camden. The borough adopted a new set of planning policies in July 2017 after much consultation and engagement. These policies very much support the aims and themes of Camden 2025. Policies to boost genuinely affordable housing, protect our heritage, pubs and cultural venues, whilst also supporting growth. The spirit of Camden 2025 is also one of genuine collaboration, with communities telling us they want a say.

This collaborative approach and strong community groups enabled Camden to lead the way nationally in terms of neighbourhood plans. The most recent to pass a referendum was the Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan which saw 1,484 local people supporting its introduction. These plans, driven by local volunteers, help ensure planning policies reflect local concerns and circumstances.

A part of our commitment to ensure local areas are compensated and see the benefits of development in their area, we agreed that all local areas will receive 25 per cent of all Community Infrastructure Levy, a tax on developers. The spending of this is led by councillors and invested in local projects. Moving forward, we will also launch an online public consultation platform for residents to suggest local projects and ideas.

Camden responded to community concerns over basements applications, which were becoming increasingly contentious. New policies are some of the most robust in the country. Super basements are a thing of the past, with residential basements limited to one-storey and cannot exceed 50pc of the garden. We have also introduced an Article 4 Direction so that all basement works must now secure planning permission.

Across the borough access to decent and genuinely affordable housing is top concern. There has been local discussion over potential lost homes for key workers at the Royal Free. Camden’s plan has ambitious targets for affordable housing, and also introduced a requirement that small sites (under 10 homes) must contribute towards affordable housing too. This made Camden the first council to introduce this change, against government policy. The council has also now agreed a requirement for developers to publish publically, and in full, their profit calculations (viability assessments).

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Pubs and other community venues are under significant pressure, with hundreds having been lost in the capital in recent years. Our new Local Plan includes a strong policy to protect pubs and community facilities. The developer must demonstrate that there are equivalent premises available and no interest in its continued use. A marketing exercise and community survey are required. We have already started to see the benefits with the tide of pubs being lost slowing and some re-opening with new protections.