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London council is keen to be pilot for digital planning

Words: Laura Edgar
Tech / iStock-547419538

Councillors at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council have given their support to plans for the government’s plans for better digital engagement and online local plans.

The proposals are set out in white paper Planning for the Future.

It outlines that decision-making should be faster and more certain, with firm deadlines, and make greater use of digital technology. This includes greater digitalisation of the application process; a new, more modular, software landscape to encourage digital innovation and provide access to underlying data; shorter and more standardised applications.

The council said it would put itself forward to be a pilot area for the government’s digital proposals.

Its response to the consultation was approved at a council meeting last week (8 October). Alongside its views on digitisation, the council outlined its concern about housing targets and limited local influence over new developments.

The proposed method for calculating housing need would set Kensington and Chelsea a target of delivering 3,285 homes a year, the council explained, an increase from the 448 set out in the new London Plan. Planning officers advised that this is unachievable given the land and conservation areas in the borough.

Johnny Thalassites, lead member for planning, said: “The government is right that more digital engagement is vital for the future of planning. We already use digital engagement and we want to be at the forefront of these new ideas.

“However, the proposals raise important issues. We want to build more new homes, while protecting quality of life for people who already live here. Our compact borough has conservation areas which would make high housing targets like those in the government white paper impossible to reach.

“We need the ability to write local policy and communities should be able to have a say on developments on their doorsteps.”

The council said in its response that it also concerned about less community involvement in new developments, with Planning for the Future limiting consultation with residents to the local plan, compared with now, when residents can influence this and individual planning applications.

It outlined that some local policies unique to Kensington and Chelsea could be overturned by these proposals, through national law, including:

  • A one-storey limit on basement developments, which has reduced conflicts between neighbours and reduced complaints to the council.
  • Protection of some buildings for employment uses to support the local economy, for example, music industry businesses.
  • Limiting the use of buildings for new diplomatic uses to defined areas.

The council signed off the response in principle and will still consider further feedback from resident associations before submitting the response before the deadline, which is 29 October.

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