We recently found out, by accident (from an article in a recent edition in the Chiswick Herald spotted by an eagle-eyed OWGRA Committee member), that LBH is ‘shortlisted for a prestigious Planning Award’ (sic) for the Nishkam/Bolder/Grasshoppers scheme – see https://www.hounslow.gov.uk/news/article/745/hounslow_council_shortlisted_in_prestigious_planning_awards. Interestingly, we were not informed of this by the Council.
You can watch the short film which was produced to support this application by clicking on the video link on this page
One of the comments made in this film is “With the sensitivity of the sites it was important that the process was really collaborative… that there was adequate consultation, and extensive consultation with local community groups.” Anyone who was involved with the KOG (Keep Osterley Green) campaign at the time will know that this really was very far from the truth!
We took the opportunity of putting the questions below to IBAF (Isleworth & Brentford Area Forum) last Thursday evening (https://democraticservices.hounslow.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=576&MId=10300&Ver=4):
“a. Given that this scheme was pushed forward in the face of huge opposition from local people (who were only informed of the Nishkam School a few weeks before the planning application was submitted, while the planning for the school had gone on for years in secret before it was made public), that very substantial amounts of public money had to be spent forcing this through against the views of local people and relocating a sports club from fit-for-purpose facilities to world-class facilities, and that many of the objections raised by local people to show that this scheme was fundamentally flawed have proved to be true, how can the Council argue that this is an example of good planning?
b. How can the Council congratulate itself on a planning award which so clearly ignored the Council’s own Statement of Community Involvement? That statement and every level of planning guidance recommends that local people should be involved in the FORMATIVE stage of planning and design. In the case of Nishkam local residents only saw the plans when everything had been finalised. Is this really a process about which the Council should be congratulated?
c. Who nominated the Council for this award or did LBH submit their own application for this award?
d. Who should we contact to request to see the information that was submitted in support of the application for this award?
e. How much is the entry fee for this award and who has paid it?
f. What other costs were involved in the application for this award (eg the making of the supporting film)?
g. How many LBH staff will be going to the award ceremony on 4 June and what will the cost of that be?
h. Would the Council accept this award (if they won) considering that the Bolder part of this scheme has now stalled?”
In his response at the IBAF meeting the Council Leader rejected the idea that there had not been adequate consultation over the Nishkam planning proposal. We can only assume that this means that he does not believe in the Council’s own policy as stated in its Statement of Community Involvement which carries a statement by him praising the document. Paragraph 6.7 says that the Council will “Encourage applicants of larger schemes to submit to the council (as part of the planning application) a participation statement of early engagement setting out how the requirements of the SCI have been satisfied, the representations received and how these have been considered and reflected in the application as submitted”
There was no such “early engagement”. Residents were invited to an exhibition for the development only a few weeks before the application was made at which point it was clear that all the plans for the school had been fully drawn up ready for submission. The exhibition was therefore a token consultation only and certainly not part of a process of “early engagement” given that the Council had been in discussion about the proposed school for years before the application went in. At the IBAF meeting we therefore said that it was impossible to see how a development which ignored the Council’s own policy on early consultation could reasonably be considered for an award for planning excellence unless that policy is simply not regarded as important.