Last few days to sumbit comments to the Council.
As we posted recently, Newmark Properties, submitted their revised application for a 1,486 sq m (16,000 sq ft) Sainsbury's superstore and 68 unit housing development to Hackney planners on 13 July. This began the countdown on a 13 week period in which the council aims to determine if the proposal for Wilmer Place and 193-201 Stoke Newington High Street, should be granted or refused permission.
The Council undertook some administrative tasks to check all is technically in order, to post notifications about the development, and to begin a period of public consultation.
Officers will already be considering the applications and teh comments received to date, but further comments will be accepted on the website until coming Monday 24 September.
A decision should be made within the statutory 13 week period which began on 13 July. In reality, a controversial and substantial application such as this is likely to miss the various target dates, but nonetheless we need to ensure our arguments are made and support for our views are clearly demonstrated in writing as soon as possible and no later than this coming Monday 24 September.
Here are answers to some questions you may have:
Read as many of the documents that have been posted on the council's website
as you can. These, and only these, are the official application documents. There are a lot of them and most are highly technical. If you can, you should at least read the Design and Access Statement (available here
). It is a 'glossy' summary of the applicant's case and contains computer generated images of the proposal.
Read our full response here
, and if possible the responses of selected other groups and experts here
. Make sure your neighbours, and the managers of all the local shops you use and care about are aware that the process has begun and that they need to make their views known to the Council as soon as possible this week and no later than this coming Monday 24 September.
If you want to examine the planning application documents on paper you can view them during office hours, at the Hackney Service Centre, 1 Hillman Street, London E8 1DY (behind the Town Hall on Mare Street).
Can I just sign a petition?
Stokey Local won't be organising a petition because, in practice, they have a limited effect in the planning process.
Typically an officer will summarise the petitions under a single line stating how many signatories there are. They do help demonstrate wide support for a view, but unless the statement on the petition is unusually short and comprehensive, it is usually regarded as too broad an objection or too complex to have been truly considered by its signatories.
Instead we'd like you to write to the planning officers, preferably in your own words, as soon as possible, and no later than Friday 21 September. You don't need to say much; we've published our full and comprehensive objection
for you to take ideas from.
What will Stokey Local be doing?
We haven't had any advance access to the documents so it took some timer to formulate our response
which we submitted on 14 September.
When should I write to the Council?
Now! Use our arguments to formulate your own response to the Council. It's important that arguments made are clear, succinct, and are mostly valid planning arguments. It is not necessary to quote policy, regulations, or the law. Planning officers will identify relevant policy when they write their report.
It is far more important that your response is clear, unambiguous, relevant and reasoned.
We want you to do this as soon as possible this week. The Hackney website will accept comments up until this coming Monday 24 September 2012.
How should I write to the planners?
If you can keep your response brief (within 2000 characters), the best way is to use the Council's website. Click here to use it. This will result in an automatic email with a copy of your comments being sent straight back to you – usually within a minute or two. This is confirmation that your response is stored within the planning system. We recommend you compose your response in a document and then copy and paste it across to the online form. If you want to know how many characters you have written then there is a website here which will tell you.
If you have longer comments, or if you don't receive the automatic confirmation, you should email them to firstname.lastname@example.org instead. The subject of your email should quote the application number. For example:
Subject: Objection to 2012/2228 Land at Wilmer Place
You should receive an automated response to confirm your email has been received by the Council, but not that it has been assigned to the relevant officer. You may get an email a few days later to confirm the officer has your comments and will take them in to consideration but it doesn't always happen, so don't worry if you don't get the latter.
You can also write a letter by quoting the reference "2012/2228 Land at Wilmer Place" and sending it to Hackney Planning Service, 2 Hillman Street, London E8 1FB, though please do so in plenty of time.
There is more information on this process at the Hackney planning website:
Who else should I write to?
The only people who have any part in the decision making process are the planning officers. They are paid employees, usually with planning degrees and a wealth of experience in these matters. They are not politicians and are not elected. They are not put under any pressure to make decisions by Councillors, the Mayor of Hackney, the political parties or any other group. They are the local government equivalent of civil servants and the initial decision is in their hands.
The bad old days of bungs, back-handers, brown envelopes, and shady deals are long gone. Much of the decision making process is de-politicized, open and transparent (though not necessarily easy to understand). We will be monitoring it throughout.
Should I write to the Mayor of Hackney, the Mayor of London or my local councillors?
The Mayor of Hackney has no role in day-to-day planning matters and will not be able to involve himself in the process. Nor will the Mayor of London, who has a role in some types of planning appeal so must not get involved in a local matters.
Local, elected councillors have no more influence on this stage of the process than the rest of us. They do not make any planning decisions. Most of them can make comments in the same way we make a written submission, and they may do so in the name of the political party they belong to, their constituents or both. However, they do have an additional role in the Planning Sub-committee, should this application reach that stage (see below).
They are usually happy to receive copies of your correspondence to the planners or clarify their position and role, but cannot influence the decision of the planners.
What is the role of the Councillors and the Planning Sub-committee?
The vast majority (over 90%) of planning applications are determined solely by the professional planning officers within the Council. Only when their decision is controversial (i.e. they approve a proposal that had a significant number of objections), or it goes significantly against Council or GLA policy, does the decision get referred to a special sub-committee of elected councillors. This is the Planning Sub-committee and it usually sits once a month to determine around 15 or so refferred applications.
The Sub-committee comprises a panel of nine (plus six substitutes, or reserves) of the elected councillors from across Hackney. They must make decisions strictly in accordance with policy and planning law. In this role, they do not represent either their political parties or their constituents. They must have an open mind on all applications and must not have been involved in any of the lobbying or campaigning on a particular application. If they have been involved, they must withdraw from the discussions and are ineligible to vote.
Four of the nine councillors from the three wards in the immediate vicinity of Wilmer Place sit on the Planning Sub-committee (or are substitutes). Only one of those four will be eligible to sit on this matter – Cllr Ian Sharer (Cazenove Ward). Cllr Sharer cannot be approached or lobbied on this application. Nor should any of the other members of Planning Sub-committee from other wards.
If officers decide to refuse permission for this application, we would expect them to do so without referring it to the Planning Sub-committee. If they are minded to approve it, they will have to refer it to the Planning Sub-committee. This is unlikely to happen before 10 October 2012. At this stage they will present their case to the impartial councillors on the Sub-committee.
At this point, all the public objectors who have registered to speak, have five minutes to share amongst themselves to present their case. That's a total of five minutes for all objections. In addition, local ward councillors who are not on the Planning Sub-committee are normally given an additional five minutes each to represent the views of their constituents. This is the only way the elected Councillors can participate in the planning process.
The eight local Councillors who will not sit on Planning Sub-committee for this appliction are:
Stoke Newington Central: Cllr Louisa Thomson (Labour), Cllr Rita Krishna (Labour), Cllr Susan Fajana-Thomas* (Labour)
Lordship Ward: Cllr Daniel Stevens (Labour), Cllr Edward Brown (Labour), Cllr Bernard Aussenberg (Conservative)
Cazenove Ward: Cllr Dawood Akhoon* (Liberal Democrat), Cllr Abraham Jacobson* (Liberal Democrat) [on leave till end Aug]
* Cllr Fajana-Thomas normally sits on the Planning Sub-committee, Cllrs Akhoon and Jacobson are substitutes. All three have already declared an interest and will not sit on this matter, so may be approached to represent your views at the Planning Sub-committee or to answer questions on the process and their involvement in it.
If you work or live in another ward, check this list on the Hackney website to determine your local councillor, but check under the 'Committee Appointments' heading to see if they sit on the Planning Sub-committee, or against this list. If they do, either contact another ward councillor or ask them if they will be sitting on this matter before you present your views.
Some useful links