Why won’t H&F Council listen to the views of residents on the design of new buildings?

I recently logged the following query with Hammersmith and Fulham Council:

“Please advise what actual numerical evidence we have (if any) on what types of built form, material, typology and style local people prefer. If we don’t have any such evidence what plans to we have to undertake some proper research  – using pictures and polling to get a usable and meaningful understanding to publish the results and to make use of this evidence to inform the council’s strategy and development-control decision-making.”

This was the reply from the Council’s Head of Policy & Spatial Planning:

“We are currently embarking on a resident engagement programme as you describe below with the Hammersmith Working Party for the Hammersmith Town Centre Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).  We aim to develop a set of design principles of what people like and dislike to then take forward to a wider public consultation.

“It is through more area focused planning guidance documents such as SPDs where this exercise can reasonably be done and our Conservation Area Character Profiles guidance is another example.  To try to gather a robust evidence base to place such prescriptive design requirements across the whole borough would not only be challenging but would not sit comfortably within a high level and strategic document such as a Local Plan.  The National Planning Policy Framework while advising that planning policies should seek to promote or reinforce local distinctiveness, is clear that policy “should not attempt to impose architectural styles or particular tastes and they should not stifle innovation, originality or initiative through unsubstantiated requirements to conform to certain development forms or styles” (para.60).

“Our emerging Local Plan has a number of borough-wide policies controlling design and requires that new development seeks to respect and improve the quality of our built and natural environment with further detail in policies on development in or adjoining Conservation Areas, Listed Buildings, the River Thames, etc.  Developers are required to demonstrate how they have engaged with residents and responded to their views prior to submitting an application, we also carry out a public consultation on all applications and large schemes are referred to a Design Review Panel while our in-house design team also carry out an assessment.

“Therefore, area focused guidance offers the best opportunity for a community engagement exercise as you describe, which we are currently carrying out for Hammersmith.

“I hope this information is helpful.”

So there we have it. No interest in the views of residents. The Council is happy to have plenty of gimmicks – commissions, panels, resident’s “champions”, etc. But when it comes to anything tangible the wishes of residents are disregarded.


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