Message from Councillor Derek Levy
PLANNING PANEL ….. 21ST NOVEMBER 2019 ……. POSTPONED
Acting on the advice of the Council’s Director of Law and Governance, and having also discussed the matter towards the end of this week also with senior officers in the Planning Department, it has become necessary to defer this meeting until the New Year.
In addition to the many local sensitivities and concerns over the Southgate Office Village redevelopment proposals, it has now become subject to a number of additional and specific political sensitivities which brings the whole matter into the orbit of the Purdah period presaging the upcoming General Election. To have proceeded with the meeting in this climate, with all of the restrictions that purdah brings, would have devalued and diluted the whole raison d’etre of convening such a meeting. And that is too big a price to pay.
The likelihood currently is that this all-important and pivotal Planning Panel should now take place during week two or three of January 2020 – more probably week 3. A potential date has already been identified but a suitable venue capable of accommodating the large numbers of people anticipated has not yet been secured.
The additional knock-on impact of this is that the matter could and will not be determined by Planning Committee until the mid-March meeting at the earliest given everything that needs to be done to absorb and accommodate matters arising from the Planning Panel – and both considered and acted upon – by the scheme proponents and Planning Officers between the Panel and the Committee
Furthermore, given the scale, significance and the immense interest in the scheme, it is felt that the item should be dealt more comprehensively and as part of a single item committee Agenda, which opens up the possibility of an early April meeting for this very purpose.
Put simply, consider this as the pause button having been applied. Although there is now an unforeseen two month gap between the deferred and proposed Planning Panel dates, this doesn’t mean that significant time has been bought. The issues remain the same; the Officers’ analysis would not materially differ from that which they would have brought forward on 21st November, and the reference points for debate, discussion, and questions have not changed.
I am holding to my previous advice that drip feeding members of the Planning Committee remains a good and purposeful idea. It is just that the time shift allows for more of a realistic drip than a overflow of submissions, and definitely not a torrent. It buys you more time to gather your thoughts and pace your lobbying needs more sensibly.
Above all, it allows you all to take a bit of a break yourselves from devoting so much of your thinking (and worry/anxiety) time to what must have felt like an all-consuming issue in recent months. So, apart from the drip drip drip approach, allow yourselves to take a deep breath, relax a while, concentrate of the impending seasonal period and the many other aspects of your lives. Essentially, nothing much or nothing new or significant is likely to happen in the intervening two months.
Today is 17 days shy of what would have been the Planning Panel. I suggest that all of us release the handbrake / pause button on the Mon 6th Jan 2020 (my birthday, by the way; a milestone one at that) and pick things up again with the same amount of run-up to the revised Planning Panel date.
It is my understanding that Andy Higham from the Planning Team at the Council is intending, indeed is obliged, to formally write to many if not all of you (and may already have done so) as well as to all those who have submitted comments so far, and also to other key stakeholders and interested parties in this matter.
The postponement, I’m afraid, is unavoidable. I don’t know whether this will come to you as welcome relief or an immense frustration. The fact is that that it really is unavoidable. My advice to you therefore is to use the additional time you now have at your disposal as wisely, sensibly, and beneficially as each of you in your own way can; and come back to this refreshed, replenished, revitalised, and reinvigorated in the very early New Year
Kind regards; and may I be the very first person to offer you, if somewhat pre-emptively, Seasons Greetings!
Councillor Derek Levy