Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Wednesday 17th June 2009 7.30pm

Development Control Committee

This was my first time sitting on the decision making side of this committee. This committee makes decisions on larger or more controversial planning applications. The extent of the committee’s powers is quite narrow and largely confined to issues where judgement is called for. The committee has to operate within planning regulations set by the Council itself, and those regulations have to be within the parameters set by the London Mayor. Committee members cannot refuse an application just because they don’t like it. The applicant has the option to appeal against the decision of the committee and then the final decision on the application will be made by a planning inspector – an independent person from outside the council, appointed by the Planning Inspectorate. The inspector will consider whether the decision made was reasonable and in accordance with the various planning guidelines. If reasonable then the appeal will be dismissed. If the decision is found not to have been reasonable in the light of the current guidance then the appeal will be upheld and costs awarded against the council.

 The first application to be considered was 10 Dorset Road, Belmont. We were advised that the dedelegation by the ward councillor had been withdrawn and so the application was granted in accordance with the recommendation of planning officers.

The application for 74-108 and 79-113 Sydney Road regarding the part-provision of parking spaces as a stage of construction had been completed had been withdrawn so there was no need to consider it.

Land rear of 1-7 Elm Way, Worcester Park was next and was more controversial. The application had previously been given approval back in 1996 and this was simply a renewal of the application. I had visited the plot earlier in the week. The site consisted of a plot of garden land to the rear of no 1 Elm Way, and part of the rear gardens of numbers 3, 5 and 7 Elm Way, still in the ownership of those householders. This was obviously back garden development and something I take a dislike to for a number of reasons, however as the application had previously been agreed and questioning uncovered no changes to the situation which could be useful, the committee had no planning grounds on which to refuse the application, so renewal was granted. I couldn’t bring myself to vote for an application which I would have been inclined to refuse on its original presentation so I chose to abstain. The chair offered some consolation to the objectors to the application, who were also the owners of the plots in question: that as long as they refused to sell their garden land this application had no chance of being put into operation. They truly were in charge of their own fate in this matter.

 Next up was a retrospective application for the new trading hut on the Stanley Road Allotments site in Carshalton. I had been lucky to gain access to the site and was shown the building and surrounding area by a site ‘caretaker’. The only objection to the application had come from the owners of a flat which was directly behind the new hut on the basis that it ruined the view from the property. It was established that the owners rented the flat out and no objection had been received from the current occupants of the flat, or any of the immediate neighbours. I questioned the owners’ argument about loss of view as the back of the hut was almost entirely obscured by a hedge or thick climbing plant that covered the inside of the fence to the rear of the garden. I also highlighted that the hut was positioned right next to the old hut, and that this was the most convenient location for it to permit access to the public without causing damage to the rest of the allotment site. The application was passed unanimously.

 The final application for discussion was in respect of Tooting and Mitcham Football Club, Imperial Fields Morden. The committee had been asked previously to comment on the application as it was on the immediate border of Sutton and impacted on residences and open space in Sutton. A number of objections had been noted by the committee about the significant impact certain proposed activities would have on our residents. The Merton Planning Committee had included all Sutton’s objections as conditions on the application. The application was now back with us again for consultation as the applicant wanted to vary many of the conditions that had been imposed. Questions highlighted that no good reasons for lifting the conditions had been made by the applicant, and it seemed to be purely that the applicant found them to be ‘inconvenient’. Many of the conditions concerned hour of operation. Cllr. Richard Butt commented that this committee had no power to ensure enforcement of the conditions as the matter was entirely down to Merton. The chair noted that it was indeed a ‘consultation’. Cllr. Butt took the view that it was therefore not worth commenting. I was quite angry at this attitude and argued that as elected representatives of our residents we had a duty to stand up for their interests. As Merton had listened to our objections before I saw no reason why they should not do so again. To just ‘give in’ to the pressure of the applicants struck me as ‘lily-livered’. I argued that we should restate our objections as before as there were no mitigating circumstances to withdraw them. This was agreed by the committee with the exception of the request for the applicants to prepare a Traffic Impact Assessment as this was entirely a matter for Merton to decide.

 The two remaining items were application brought by the Council regarding schools and were passed without further discussion.

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August 14, 2009 - Posted by | Committee Meeting

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