Westminster’s Cabinet has endorsed a major shake-up of planning in the city that will usher in a new era of openness and which puts residents at the heart of the decision making process.
The changes are to ensure that residents and local councillors have a bigger say earlier on in the planning process. There will also be a greater emphasis on place shaping which will be achieved by working with ward councillors, Amenity Societies and Neighbourhood Forums to scope out what they want for their areas and then reflecting that in planning. The council will also insist that developers engage with interested parties at pre application stage.
The Cabinet decision was taken at its meeting on 25th October and follows an independent review of the planning service that was led by the Chief Executive and supported by the Planning Advisory Service.
The key changes that have been approved include:
In addition, the Cabinet agreed that all members and officers are to be reminded regarding the clear rules on gifts and hospitality. They have also requested that there is further engagement with ward councillors, amenity societies and residents’ groups. The purpose of these discussions is to bring forward details as to how the proposed changes, including public speaking rights and delegation of decision making, should be implemented in the future. This will then be subject to a further cabinet decision.
Westminster City Council Leader, Nickie Aiken said: “We have put planning under the microscope and made changes which put local people at the heart of decision making. Our Cabinet decision will be the catalyst to not just change our procedures, but is part of an important culture change that councillors and officers are working together to deliver. We want a bottom up and not top down system.
"When I became Leader I took immediate action, opening up planning decisions to more scrutiny, making sure all meetings about planning applications take place in council offices with officers present, and launching an independent review. Once again, we have listened to what local people have told us needs looking at and brought forward important and meaningful changes.”