Last month I emailed the Council’s Head of Policy & Spatial Planning to say:
“I gather that the Mayor of London approved towers as high as 26 storeys for the Old Oak Park Royal Development Corporation.
May I suggest that the Council asks for the Mayor to review this decision unless it can be established that there is no greater fire risk than there would be in low/medium rise buildings.
Also with regard to our own planning policy could this be reviewed?
Currently we say: “A limited number of tall buildings could be considered as part of the approach to urban design.” May I suggest that we either make clear that the Council would oppose any new tall buildings or at least that we would oppose any new tall buildings unless it can be established that there is no greater fire risk than there would be in low/medium rise buildings.”
He has replied as follows:
“Dear Councillor Phibbs,
Thank you for your query sent on 19/06/17 concerning tall buildings and fire risk. You have requested that we ask the Mayor to review any approvals of towers in the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) area and that we review our own planning policy so that we oppose any new tall buildings unless they can be shown to be of no greater fire risk than low-medium rise buildings.
May I first respond by saying that the council Planning department are very aware of the tragic fire that occurred on the 14th June at the Grenfell Tower residential block and the concerns of many about the safety of tall buildings. I can advise that our planning policy on tall buildings sets out criteria proposals should meet and is largely focused on the visual impact, supporting transport, public realm, sustainability and the impact on local amenity which are amongst the matters that a local authority is required to take into consideration when determining a planning application. Fire safety matters which we acknowledge are of paramount importance, are controlled through legislative powers within Building Regulations and the planning system should not duplicate or supplement these controls. At any point in the future, if there are changes in law or guidance in the way planning policy can approach fire safety, we can respond and review our planning policy.
It is important to note, however, that whilst the regulations on fire safety are contained in Building Regulations, our planning department work closely with our Building Control colleagues which allows for informed discussions regarding future projects within the Borough. It is important that this continues to be closely monitored on all future high rise projects by our Building Control team in co-operation with the Planning department to ensure public fire safety. We are also working closely with the OPDC on their emerging Local Plan policies with their second round of public consultation starting on 29th June and running until 11th September, which will include their approach to tall buildings. Housing colleagues at the council are also currently engaging with the Greater London Authority and the Department for Communities and Local Government on any potential changes to policies that might arise as a result of the Grenfell fire.
I hope this information is helpful and please contact me if you have any further queries.”
So despite the Grenfell Tower tragedy the Council’s policy is still to support more tower blocks in the borough. A terrible mistake.