Outcome of Local Plan Examination hearings January 2022

As explained in a previous post, the Planning Inspector dealing with the examination of the OPDC Draft Local Plan agreed to hold four further public hearing sessions on 11th and 12th January.

At a hearing on the 11th January 2022 OONF had some success in persuading the Inspector (Paul Clark) that OPDC need to be more upfront and specific about ‘suitable locations’ and ‘appropriate heights’ of tall buildings, in a final version of its ‘Post Submission Modified Draft Local Plan’.

We have been making the point for five years that the current draft refers frequently to ‘varying building heights’.  The document includes maps with large areas deemed as ‘appropriate’ for tall buildings.

On each of the three successive versions of the Draft Plan we have asked for more honesty from OPDC, in the form of the housing density figures assumed for each ‘site allocation’ and the likely implications for building heights.

In a Local Plan which sets site allocations with specific housing numbers, it is not rocket science to forecast the building typologies and heights likely to result, within a range.  These heights might be ‘mansion blocks’ of 10-14 storeys up to towers of 40 storeys and more, depending on how many housing units are to be fitted into the site.

OPDC planning officers have always remained very coy on this subject.  Vague answers have been given at public meetings.   We pointed out to the Planning Inspector that the maps and text in the ‘Place’ sections of the Draft Local Plan are similary vague.

Nowhere in the many hundred pages of Draft Local Plan documents is there any acknowledgement of a specific building height above 12 storeys.  Yet local people know very well that buildings of 20-30 storeys have been granted planning consent at ‘Oaklands Rise’ and along Scrubs Lane.  And that LB Ealing has approved towers of 50 storeys plus at North Acton, on applications ‘delegated’ by OPDC.

Now there is a new policy D9 on Tall Buildings included in the 2021 London Plan.  This applies to all new local plans being prepared by Boroughs, the OPDC and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC).

At the hearing on January 11th, the Planning Inspector accepted our case that more honesty and transparency is needed in the final ‘modifications’ of the OPDC Local Plan.  He has told OPDC officers to come up with further amendments which will identify ‘suitable locations’ and ‘appropriate heights’ for tall buildings, in text and on maps.  These changes are needed  for the adopted Plan to ‘generally conform’ with the London Plan and to be deemed ‘sound’ in this respect.

We have yet to see how OPDC responds to this new requirement for more modifications to be made.  There has been silence on the subject from OPDC, since the conclusion of the public hearing.

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