Ealing doubles the amount of planning consultation time

Residents and businesses in Ealing are being given more time to have their say on planning applications in the borough as a result of the current government restrictions due to COVID-19.

Ealing Council has now doubled the consultation period for all major and most residential and small scheme planning applications from the statutory three weeks (21 days) to six weeks (42 days).

This new longer period is effective on all applications received from 14 April 2020 onwards. The new 42-day consultation date will appear on site notices, press adverts and in the council’s regular communications with the borough’s conservation area groups and resident associations.

Doubling the consultation period will allow people more time to submit views to the council about some of the major developments that are due to be considered at planning committee. A number of these proposals include the building of more much-needed genuinely affordable homes for the borough’s residents and key workers.

Keeping the council’s planning service functioning as normal as possible is seen as critical to the borough’s recovery phase after the lockdown has lifted.  This will ensure that the projects which have planning approval can start to move into the construction phase as quickly as possible. This will help new jobs to be created, boost the construction industry and support industries that supply it.

Despite the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, the council is committed to ensuring the public still have as much input into the planning process and that it remains as transparent as possible.

On top of the doubling of the consultation period, additional measures will include:

  • following government guidance, holding planning committees using digital technology which all members of the public will be able to watch in real time. The council is committed to maintaining all public participation rights at committees and a recording of the committee will remain accessible after the committee as an additional record;
  • virtual forums with the Planning users’ group (PUG), an association of resident representatives, to help keep the community briefed and involved on the changes being implemented;
  • a ‘how-to guide’ for residents and the public to make more use of the council’s planning portal and keep track of applications will be available via www.ealing.gov.uk;
  • more information and guidance for all councillors on planning applications, particularly those which relate to their ward;
  • as good practice, the council will now ask applicants to let their immediate neighbours know about their application and encourage them to notify them with the official site notice on the council’s website. If the application has been submitted by an agent, they will be requested to contact their client to advise them on the above procedure;
  • the council will consider all applications submitted between the lockdown and 13 April which are out on a 21-day period consultation on a 42-day period basis; and
  • the council is working with the developers of major applications to look at how they can increase engagement with local communities. These initiatives could include developing digital platforms to inform, engage and consult with the widest range of local residents and groups.

Consultation letters will continue to be sent to conservation area groups and residents associations on all planning applications in their neighbourhoods and they will be asked to forward these on to their contacts in the local community.

The only planning procedure that will remain unchanged will be prior-approvals on larger residential extension proposals.Neighbours will continue to receive the statutory prior-approval application notice letter for these on properties that immediately join their developments. The existing 21-day consultation will remain unchanged on these ‘prior approval’ applications*.

Cllr Peter Mason, cabinet member for planning, housing and transformation, said:

“Despite the restrictions imposed on us by the lockdown, the council is going to even greater lengths to ensure that we capture and take on board the public’s views about the planning applications being put before us. That’s why we’ve doubled the consultation period on the majority of applications, including large schemes, we’re going out to residents’ groups to get their views and we’re making more information available online.

“This will include using our online technology to help us reach a wider group of residents and groups who may not have been able to attend a committee meeting in person or who may be shielding. These virtual meetings will, I hope, help us to connect to a wider audience, get a broader input from our communities and be another tool that will hold us to account.

“Keeping our planning services running as smoothly as possible is very important to Ealing's recovery, as well as ensuring we continue to secure genuinely affordable homes that are fit for heroes. The key workers on the front line of this crisis are often the ones faced with expensive rents and priced out of the housing market.

“By doing this, we will help the whole industry be ready to emerge from this crisis, from local tradespeople working on small scale extensions to the hundreds who are employed in dozens of professions working on big schemes across the borough.

“By continuing our planning service in the ways set out, I know this will put the borough and the construction industry in the strongest position to recover quickly from the crisis.”