Planning group quits after Hackney Council cuts funding

The central and south Hackney conservation area advisory committee in action. Picture: Mike Hood

The central and south Hackney conservation area advisory committee in action. Picture: Mike Hood - Credit: Archant

Volunteers who scrutinise planning applications in Hackney’s conservation areas say they will no longer do the work because Hackney Council has stopped sending them the documents.

Town hall planning bosses told the six Conservation Area Advisory Committees (CAACs) in December that their £8,000 funding was being cut.

The money was used to print and send out about 25 planning applications every month to each group, who would then discuss and comment on the bids before decisions were made.

They will now be sent via email, but without the hard copies, Mike Hood, secretary of the Central and South Hackney CAAC, said his group could not carry out the role properly and would no longer comment.

“When reviewing applications, the group needs to consider and compare drawings showing the proposed design, alterations and materials,” he said. “It is simply not possible to do this effectively on a laptop or iPad, particularly when there are numerous drawings, the originals are to A1 or A2 scale or if numerous drawings are on a single PDF.”

The 25 applications emailed over this month have now gone without scrutiny from the group. And Mike also took issue with the fact their requests for a proper meeting room had been ignored. The volunteers have met in a room above the Pub in the Park, London Fields, for two years due to construction work at the town hall. “Without a properly equipped meeting space and a large screen and computer to access the planning applications, this CAAC group is agreed we are unable to provide any further comments on planning applications,” he said.

It means applications for work in Graham Road and Mapledene, Broadway Market, Victoria Park, Fremont and Warneford, Town Hall Square, Mare Street, Regents Canal and the Hackney Wick conservation areas won’t be properly scrutinised.

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The Gazette understands similar issues are also affecting two of the other six groups: Kingsland and Stoke Newington. The council said: “The council has had to make many difficult financial decisions recently and we simply do not have £8,000 to direct away from the planning service’s frontline.” But they vowed to send hard copies for “major” developments.