Councillor laments “bad day for local democracy” after Mayor’s intervention on controversial planning application

Published: Friday, July 12, 2019

A senior Wandsworth councillor has warned that Mayor Sadiq Khan risks “riding roughshod over local democracy and local interests” if he overturns a decision by the council’s planning committee which had voted to back the views of local residents.

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An artist's impression of the development

In April Wandsworth’s planning committee rejected controversial plans for a large-scale mixed-use development close to the Wandle Delta in Osiers Road. The decision supported local residents who had bitterly objected to the scheme.

But in an unexpected move the decision has now been “called in” by the Mayor, who has informed council planners that he will make the decision instead.

Residents were unhappy with the plans for a number of tall buildings, up to 14 storeys high, providing office space and 168 residential units with roof terrace and balconies. More than 350 objected to the plans during the scheme’s various phases of consultation.

Objections ranged from the scale, size and bulk of the proposed towers, which people complained would be on too small a site, overbearing and excessive. The designs were said to lack architectural merit, be out of keeping with their surroundings and described as “piecemeal and chaotic”, resulting in a significant loss of light, outlook and visual amenity.

Councillors from both parties voted to reject the plans – on the grounds that “the proposed development by reason of its scale, siting, mass, and layout would be an inappropriate and unneighbourly development, resulting in an unduly dominant proposal which would be out of keeping with the surroundings and detrimental to the streetscape, resulting in undue harm to the amenity of neighbouring properties, including a sense of enclosure and a loss of light and outlook.”

Following that decision City Hall’s deputy mayor for planning Jules Pipe wrote to the council to say the Mayor had decided to determine the application himself.

That decision had been taken even though he recognised “that Wandsworth Council has taken a positive approach to approving new homes in the borough during the last three years and that the council has exceeded the annualised development plan targets for both housing and affordable housing during this period”.

Responding the Mayor’s decision, Wandsworth’s planning chairman Cllr Guy Humphries said: “This is a bad day for local democracy.”

He added: “Local councillors are elected by local people and are accountable to them. They are perfectly capable of making coherent and informed decisions in the best interests of their local communities.

“Why does the Mayor think he knows more about Wandsworth and most importantly more about this particular neighbourhood than the people who actually live there.

“The decision to refuse this scheme planning permission was based on a solid understanding of the defects of the application and on the needs of local people and what would be an appropriate development in their neighbourhood.

“This interference in local decision making is difficult to comprehend given that the Mayor himself has confirmed that Wandsworth is playing a full role in providing the new homes London needs.

"We feel very strongly that he should have left this decision in the hands of locally elected people who are in a better position to know what local communities need most.”

A hearing will now be arranged at City Hall in due course to discuss the application. This meeting will be open to the public.