Attendance hit all records on 17 April when the formal business of the AGM was followed by two speakers. Stephen Kelly, the Divisional Director for Planning from Harrow Council addressed the meeting on the subject of the planning policy of the Council, with particular reference to the recent changes in Central Government policy. He was followed by the recently appointed Metropolitan Police Borough Commander, Chief Superintendant Simon Ovens, who spoke on the subject of policing policy in the Borough. In the context of Pinner he confirmed that the counter at Pinner Police Station would remain open so long as sufficient volunteers were available to man it.
Stephen Kelly addressing the meeting on Planning Policy
Simon Ovens on Policing Policy
There were lively question and answer sessions after both speeches.
A full account of the proceedings follows:
Minutes of the 80th AGM
The approval of the minutes of the 80th AGM held on 18th April 2012, as published in The Villager (No. 223, July 2012), was proposed by James Kincaid and seconded by Cynthia Wells, and carried by those present.
Bruce Watson opened by saying that those who had diligently read the “View from the Chair” articles in The Villager would already be aware of much of what the Pinner Association had been doing over the past year. He could now report some additional good things; it was again planned to hold the open air summer Band Concerts in Pinner Memorial Park and a project to refurbish the Pinner War Memorial in the High Street was under discussion with the United Services Club. The Association proposed to make donations to sponsor two youth activities, the Pinner Cricket Club Colts Team and the Harrow Young Musicians.
The Association had been very active in repeatedly contacting our MP, Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, about the Government’s proposals to increase Permitted Development rights. We were most concerned about the doubling of the allowed depth of single storey rear extensions to houses, without the near neighbours having any right to object. When the House of Lords’ passed an amendment that would have given a local authority the power to opt out of this proposal we strongly urged Nick Hurd to vote to support the amendment. At House of Commons vote the previous evening the amendment had been defeated. Nick Hurd had sent Bruce a message after this vote (see View from the Chair – page??)
Robin Youle referred the meeting to his written report was set out on pages 75 and 76 of the March 2013 edition No. 225 of “The Villager”, which had been sent to members, and the accounts for the year ended 31st December 2012 were set out on pages 76 and 77.
These are abbreviated accounts, and there were a fuller set, currently with the Independent Examiner awaiting the final sign off, which could be made available to any member who wished to see them.
The Statement of Financial Activities for 2012 showed a deficit of £4,424. Extra expenditure in 2012 was due to the increased production costs of more colour pages in “The Villager”, the replacement costs of a new membership leaflet, and increased spending on charitable activities, including a grant to the 5th Pinner Scout Group and expenditure on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee event and the summer Band Concerts. Robin thanked the advertisers in “The Villager” for supporting the high cost of production of three editions of the magazine per year.
There were no questions on the accounts. The approval of these accounts, subject to being passed by the Independent Examiners, was proposed by Nick Coleman and seconded by Warwick Hillman, and the motion to approve the accounts was carried by the meeting.
Election of Officers and Executive Committee
The President, Martin Verden, explained to the meeting that had agreed to fill this role for three years and that this period had now expired. He was glad that Keith Schofield had agreed to take on this role. Martin and Keith had together worked for the Pinner Association for more than 100 years, at times in tandem as Honorary Secretary and Chairman. Keith was an extremely conscientious committee member and had also been the Chairman of PADCA, one of the most successful community associations in the country, for over 26 years. Martin said that he was pleased to be handing over the Association when it was running as well as it was, and when it was taking on a broader remit than ever before and had recruited some new, younger, Committee members.
Robin Youle, Honorary Treasurer and Owen Cock, Committee member, were also retiring from the Committee at this time. They were thanked for their service to the Committee over many years.
Martin Verden, retiring President, conducted the elections of the Officers and Committee for the year 2013 /14.
There were no contested positions, and the following, having been nominated and seconded by the due date, were confirmed in post with the agreement of the members present.
President –Keith Schofield; Chairman –Bruce Watson; Vice-Chairman –Steve Perkins; Hon. Secretary – Ruth Boff; Hon. Treasurer –Tim Owen; Hon. Membership Secretary – Jill Cock; Hon. Editor of The Villager – Cynthia Wells.
Executive Committee – Shirley Clark, Bill Dedman, Caroline Ennis, Warwick Hillman, James Kincaid, Sheila Morgan, Keith Schofield, Sam Upton, Joanne Verden, Geoffrey Wheal.
Vote of thanks to, and election of, the Independent Examining Accountants
C. Anthony Wood & Co., Chartered Certified Accountants, had kindly agreed to act as the Independent Examining Accountants in 2012 on an honorary basis. Robin thanked them on the behalf of the Association’s members for undertaking this task, and for agreeing to continue to act in this role for the next year.
Robin asked for a proposer and seconder for the motion to appoint C. Anthony Wood & Co as the Independent Examiners for the year to 31st December 2013, and Jack Wells proposed and Bill Dedman seconded this motion, which was carried by the meeting.
Bruce announced that in recognition of their long service to the Association three new Life Vice-Presidents had been created by the Committee, and accordingly he presented Martin Verden, Owen Cock and Robin Youle each with a small gift to thank them and mark the end of their active involvement with the Association Committee. Another long serving past Committee member, already created a Life Past President during the year, Nick Coleman, also received a gift and the thanks of the Association.
The formal business of the AGM closed at 08.25 p.m.
Two speakers were then introduced to the meeting; Mr Stephen Kelly, Divisional Director – Planning. Harrow Council, and Chief Superintendent Simons Ovens, the newly appointed Borough Commander, Metropolitan Police.
A presentation by Stephen Kelly, Divisional Director – Planning. Harrow Council
Stephen Kelly began by saying he regularly read The Villager and appreciated the forthright comments about planning matters, which he used to find out what Harrow Council Planning was doing right and wrong for the residents of Pinner. In his talk he would explain why Harrow Council Planning does certain things and why it does not do others.
Planning as a discipline evolved out of public health legislation dating back some 200 years to improve living conditions in the newly industrialised cities. In the Ministerial Forward to the recent National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Greg Clark wrote “The purpose of planning is to help achieve sustainable development. Sustainable means ensuring that better lives for ourselves don’t mean worse lives for future generations. Development means growth. We must accommodate the new ways by which we will earn our living in a competitive world.” This brought a wider scope to Planning, which must now embrace the needs of the economy, progress and the environment.
Every day the challenge for Harrow Planners was to take account of the multiparty interactions on how planning decisions affect Harrow (including Pinner). Factors such as population growth, environmental change, housing supply, and employment opportunities had to be taken into account. Increasing the planning policies of the Government (HMG) were designed for economic growth and increasing employment.
The NPPF gained much media publicity last year and it was said to be the end of all form of structured planning. Harrow Council continued to write the Local Plan and having an officially approved Local Plan in place now meant that Harrow was safer from unwanted planning choices being imposed upon the borough than many other parts of the country.
HMG policies could be summarised as deregulation ( removing “red tape” from the planning process), empowerment ( local authorities would gain a new homes bonus and could retain new business rates if planning decisions were made within 22 weeks, or 1 year for major developments), encouragement (neighbouring boroughs had a duty to co-operate, and should assist with the creation of Neighbourhood Plans).
Harrow Planning Department had made savings of £1 million in the past three years, in line with the savings that Harrow Council had to make in its budget. The work now had to be done by fewer staff and Planning had to raise income whenever possible.
The primary planning strategy for Harrow borough was the “Heart of Harrow” project which would concentrate new development in the Harrow town centre and the Wealdstone corridor and specifically targeted other sites. This would allow the character of the outer areas such as Pinner to remain less affected by the need to provide additional housing and infrastructure for the increasing population than may have been the case otherwise. This policy is now confirmed by the Harrow Local Plan Core Strategy, which had been found to be sound when examined by the Planning Inspectorate last year.
In the past three years 1,000 affordable homes had been built in Harrow borough. This had been achieved without the need to impact on the green spaces in the area, as it was recognised the benefits of such sites for the residents. The Harrow “Green Grid” had been part funded by Section 106 money from developers.
The planners’ role was enabling and delivering the right outcome in partnership with the residents. In future the work of Planning Officers would be targeted as they must provide the required cost/benefit ratio for the Council.
Following the presentation Mr Kelly answered questions from the floor:
What is the current attitude to back land development?
SK reply – The Harrow Core Strategy imposed a ban on garden land development. This was controversial with some developers, but could be justified as the required number of new homes could be delivered without the need to build on garden land. Only in exceptional circumstances would garden land development be allowed. Recently additional guidance had been issued, which should to assist if a refused development appealed to the Planning Inspectorate.
What is an “Article Four Direction”?
SK reply: An Article Four Direction is made by a Local Planning Authority and removes Permitted Development rights. It means that an owner is required to seek planning consent whereas without the Direction this would not be necessary. Although the Government has suggested that Local Authorities could use an “Article Four Direction” in areas which they consider may be unsuitable for the longer rear extensions to be allowed under Permitted Development, this an unwieldy method to use. It would take a year for such a Direction to be in place and could mean that the Council would be liable for compensation payments to householders who had wished to use the new Permitted Development rights.
Why so often is a planning application published in the Harrow Observer long after an extension has actually been built? Is retrospective consent always granted?
SK reply: It is not against the criminal law to build without planning consent. It would only be illegal if a developer did not comply with an enforcement notice. If an accidental breach of planning rules occurs the Government suggests Local Authorities should take a soft line. If a breach is harmful then enforcement action would be taken. Problems can happen when approved plans are altered during construction. The new Permitted Development for very deep rear extensions could cause problems.
Other Local Authorities’ Planners say that they can control the mix of types of business in shopping areas. Why cannot this be done in Pinner where there are too many similar businesses, some unwanted by residents?
SK reply – The Government’s view is that planning should not restrict competition and that market forces should determine what businesses occupy a shopping area. The new proposed changes to Permitted Development will make it easier to change offices and shops into residential accommodation or change the class of use of a business premises. In Pinner the controversial “Starbuck’s” change of use application went to the Planning Inspectorate and was approved as the Inspector took the view that the business would increase the vitality of the High Street.
When the planning application for the extra storey of flats above Red Lion Parade was granted, why was such an ugly design for the rear aspect of the building approved?
SK reply – This was approved before he was in post in Harrow but he would inspect the documents and reply to the questioner.
Why was the Morrison’s, Hatch End, double deck car park application allowed?
SK reply: A previously approved planning application for an extension to the Morrison’s supermarket in Hatch End meant that some the existing car park area would be built over. Planning Officers took the opportunity of this application for an upper layer of car parking to discuss the use of the car park by users of the adjacent Harrow Arts Centre and obtain a formal agreement that the Morison’s car park could continue to be used by persons visiting the Arts Centre. The new car park would give better pedestrian access from the bus stop. TfL did not object to the additional car parking places being provided. The stark appearance of the car park had been a concern and it had been agreed to clad the structure and additional trees were to be planted to screen the car park.
Why had the local residents not been consulted before work started to remove the lantern style street lamps at Tookes Green, a Conservation Area, and replacement modern lamps being installed?
SK reply: A new Harrow Council Corporate Director has responsibility for both Planning and Street Lighting and was keen that good interdepartmental working should in future stop such problems occurring. A good Neighbourhood Plan would allow concerned residents to engage in a dialogue about what would be planned for a particular area.
Should not Harrow Council should act as a “good neighbour” and inform local residents before infrastructure works, tree felling, etc. were undertaken?
SK comment: Since 2009 the Planning department had sent out some 13,000 letters on planning matters. However, it was necessary to rebuild trust between officers and the residents, as currently they did not have the trust of the community and many people felt that the Council was working against their interests. Good communication was vital, using the right medium and the right messages.
The High Street in Pinner has a problem with traffic congestion; were there any proposals to deal with this? Would Pinner shopping area be given a half an hour free parking as was done in neighbouring Eastcote (Hillingdon Borough)?
SK reply – Not directly a Planning matter, but in other parts of the borough it had been found that traders considered on street parking important to stimulate business. A Neighbourhood Plan could be drawn up to give a local vision for the shopping centre. The High Street parking problems would be referred to the Traffic Officers. Cllr. Mote added that the long awaited review parking in Pinner was now due to be done this year and this problem could be addressed at that time.
What was to be done about the confusion caused by the installation and then removal of traffic direction arrows at the Pinner Green Junction? Should there be a right turn filter at the traffic lights at Pinner Green, for traffic turning right out of Elm Park Road?
SK reply – Not a planning matter but he did know of the accidents that had occurred at this junction. He would feed these comments back to the Traffic department for a response. Improvements at traffic junctions could sometimes be paid for by the enterprise money that was contributed by developers of major new constructions or by grants from TfL, etc..
Were there any plans to provide a replacement Public Convenience in Pinner?
SK reply – Harrow Council had shut most of the Public Conveniences in the borough and now aimed to work with local businesses to provide such facilities. The cost of maintenance of such facilities was prohibitive and it would be very surprising if the Council would be able to provide a new Public Convenience.
Cllrs John Nickolay and Chris Mote added that various schemes had been attempted to provide a Public Convenience after the closure of the derelict old block in Chapel Lane, but these had not been achievable for a variety of reasons. Therefore money had been granted to West House to provide toilet facilities during the café opening hours.
Chief Superintendent Simon Ovens
The Harrow Commander introduced himself to the meeting, explaining although he had been in his new post for only two weeks he had been a Police Officer in London for 26 years. He had served in Lambeth, Hounslow and in Westminster, where he had been in charge of planning for large national events and big demonstrations. Ch. Supt. Ovens said that he was a true Londoner, having been born in Westminster and he now lived in Wimbledon. This was his first posting to north London.
He had spent part of the last year at New Scotland Yard working on the necessary budget cuts for the Metropolitan Police, including the closure of some Police Stations. He had been pleased to learn that Pinner Police Station front counter had for many years been manned by volunteers and he confirmed that this arrangement would continue so long as the volunteers were willing to do so. The Pinner Police Station building would continue to be used by Harrow Police as an Operational Hub.
Chief Supt. Ovens’ main priority as Harrow Borough Commander was to bring to justice those who commit crime. Currently only 6% of burglaries in Harrow resulted in the perpetrator being convicted and this was too low a number. Officers should get to the scene of a reported break in quickly and forensic clues should be collected. As an example, the day before the meeting a print had been lifted from a crime scene at 9pm and at 7am that morning a person was arrested and was due in court the next day.
There were currently five London Boroughs with lower crime rates than Harrow; Bexley, Merton, Richmond, Kingston and Sutton. Chief Supt. Ovens’ vision was to have Harrow as the safest London Borough for crime. Sutton currently had 3,000 less crimes per annum than Harrow, so that was the target to meet. For this help would be needed from the residents who should make opportunist crime difficult by keeping all possessions out of sight in locked cars and keeping house windows shut and all exterior doors locked when the property was empty.
In answer to questions from the floor, Chief Supt. Ovens replied that the cut in the Metropolitan Police budget would result in a decrease in the number of PCSO’s across London. The number of Police Officers would rise by 26,000 but to achieve this property would have to be sold off and the number of civilian administrative staff would be reduced. There would be fewer senior Police Officers and more PC’s. The Mayor of London had referred to this policy as “Bobbies not buildings”. Efficiency savings had been on going at the Metropolitan Police over the past 12 to 15 years, but this was on a far larger scale than any previous changes.
Asked the best way to communicate with the Police when low level crime or anti-social behaviour is observed, Chief Supt. Ovens said that if a crime was being committed or frightening anti-social behaviour was happening then the 999 number should be used. For less urgent matters the 101 number should be used, and if the Police though an immediate response was required then they would attend. The internet could also be used to report crimes and ask questions. In Harrow local “Contact Points” for the public to speak to the Police face to face would be held on two weekday evenings and on Saturday afternoons at various places around the borough. However, many people now preferred to interact with the Police via the ‘phone or the internet, or even by post. But if a private face to face interaction was wanted, then the Harrow Police would make an appointment come to a person’s home at a time convenient to them.
The speed of traffic on Eastcote Road was flagged up as a local hazard and Chief Supt. Ovens asked Sgt Roni Doyle, Pinner and Pinner South Safer Neighbourhood Teams, who was present at the meeting, to arrange for colleagues from the traffic section to target local problem areas.
Some people were concerned about cyclists riding on pavements, being a hazard to pedestrians, and also riding on the roads at night without lights. This would be tackled on a local basis by Officers who would have the appropriate conversations with those causing a danger to themselves or others.