Tuesday, August 04, 2015
Oakfield – a Rock and a Hard Place
So, where are we at with the Oakfield situation? Nothing much seems to have happened (but see later) since the council decided to have another look at the Local Development Plan and it is now August, when people go on holiday, don't answer emails or read this blog.
There does not appear to have been any official announcement / statement since the council leader's intervention at the Neighbourhoods committee on 1st July but we understand that there is to be no further request for representations / consultation process before the LDF Panel meeting, which is expected to take place at the end of September. However we are told that any further representations received will be fully considered and reported to the panel.
Once the council's proposals are published (this will involve input from the LDF panel and Neighbourhoods committee, and possibly cabinet - depending on what happens at Neighbourhoods). We are not sure if it will be considered again at Full Council.
Then we get to the full formal consultation stage prior to examination in public (ie a bit like an enquiry, carried out by a planning inspector).
Here’s the later bit …
So, as Ron Jeffries writes in the letters page of the Ilford Recorder, two influential national politicians have stated quite clearly that there is no need to build on green belt land. And Oakfield is still green belt as well as other sites identified for development in the proposed LDF.
The two likely lads are the newly-appointed secretary of state for business, innovation and skills Sajid Javid, a Conservative, and London Mayoral candidate and Labour MP for Tooting, Sadiq Khan.
This opens up a very interesting possible scenario where the plan is rejected and we end up without one, the one option that councillors past and present tell us is not an option because it would result in an open season for developers. But is this really the case? Let’s take a look.
Irrespective of whether Redbridge council has a plan or not any developer would still have to submit a planning application to the council and the council would still have to make a decision on whether to approve or reject it.
If an application is approved and no one appeals, it goes ahead. However, if there are grounds to appeal, like it is on green belt land, then the community can appeal and given the national planning rules on green belt development that appeal is likely to be upheld.
If an application is rejected then the developer has the option to appeal. However, if the application is on green belt it is very unlikely that the decision would be overturned, given the national planning rules for green belt.
The same is true for parks, sites of special scientific interest and open community spaces. So, we are left with brown field sites. The question is whether these sites can absorb the number of units required without excessive high rise development in areas such as the Wanstead & Woodford corridor. Even here there are legitimate grounds for appeal which are likely to be upheld.
As our newly elected MP commented, our council leader Jaz Athwal is truly stuck between a rock and a hard place. And when you are in such a situation, I would advise, the best course of action is to stand aside and let the rock and the hard place sort it out.