Unwelcome and inappropriate planning applications blight London, and particularly the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The dangers of developments driven purely by profit, which do not benefit the communities around them in any way at all, must be curtailed.
In my previous role as spokesperson for Planning on the Kensington and Chelsea Labour Group, I did my best within procedural rules, to speak out for residents on unwelcome planning applications. Over the years this has ranged from arguing the case against the unsympathetic and greedy plan for Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre site, to supporting a disabled tenant who did want to suffer the indignity of a proposed balcony overlooking her garden.
The takeover of our local shopping parades and high streets by identikit coffee chains, the lack of adequate implementation of licensing rules for bars, restaurants and clubs, create problems of coexistence in residential areas where people are forced to fight licensing hours just to get a good night’s sleep. Planning policies – local, London-wide and national – are too often balanced in favour of developer profit and against the creation or maintenance of sustainable neighbourhoods where people of all ages can coexist in comfort and harmony.
It is a constant surprise to me that the Council Planning department is so heavily balanced towards supporting development. Where this is unwelcome, the Council is therefore acting directly against those who they are supposed to serve. Enforcement is a constant concern, and must be better funded to stop developers taking advantage of the Council’s weakness in this area.
The problem of unregulated AirBnB in Kensington is huge and growing, with instances of homes taken over for pay parties and ensuing street violence a growing threat. While this is a growing challenge for local police, living in areas with such a high rate of short term letting is also difficult and dispiriting for those who live there all year and have to suffer the consequence of the erosion of neighbourhood cohesion, dumping of rubbish in the street, and loss of character and perceived safety. The London APPG in Westminster recently met with the Deputy Mayor of London, Housing to discuss tightening regulation on short term letting.
I will always meet residents’ groups when available, and will advise and support them where it is clear that threatened developments will impact on their quality of life.