The Planning Group meets every month. We received 443 planning applications from April 2014 to March 2015. We consider every single one and respond to around 25% of applications, with no objection to around 75%. We tend not to simply object to applications in their entirety and will provide recommendations as to how developments could be improved. The workload is not evenly distributed throughout the year, with clear dips around summer and winter holidays, causing busier months in spring and autumn. 59% of the consultation responses we returned resulted in the application being refused, withdrawn, permitted after modification or permitted with conditions. Although each application often touches on several areas of interest for us, we are able to broadly split the applications into a number of categories and monitor our success rate as a consultee as follows:
We have a 38% success rate for objecting to A3 and similar in the stress area. We have a 100% success rate for requesting conditions to be applied to new A3 and similar uses. 50% of our objections to intensification in the stress area resulted in conditions applied to permission.
On applications relating to plant equipment and other noise nuisance we have a 100% success rate for achieving conditions for permission. Where we have objected, we have a 0% success rate, but have influenced conditions in all cases.
Shopfront removal (fully/partially openable design)
We have a 25% success rate for objections. 50% of our objections resulted in either a fully openable shopfront becoming modified to become partly openable or a partly openable shopfront becoming fixed through negotiation with developers. In some cases we asked for conditions, but Westminster Council refused permission entirely. Where we asked for conditions and the proposal was permitted, we had a 100% success rate of achieving the conditions.
Outside fully/partially openable shopfronts, we have a 100% success rate for objecting to proposals that will adversely affect the conservation area, listed buildings and unlisted buildings of merit. We have a 100% success rate for achieving conditions relating to the conservation area, listed buildings and unlisted buildings of merit
We have a 35% success rate for objecting to tables and chairs proposals (and one bike storage proposal). We have a 100% success rate for achieving conditions relating to tables and chairs. Westminster Council tend to favour allowing permission on a trial basis, reviewing it only if problems are identified.
Loss of office space
We have a 25% success rate of objecting to loss of office space. Several of our responses were not objections, but comments. These have now been incorporated into draft policy by Westminster Council. Several applications in this category are pending.
The big scheme at 20/40 Broadwick Street by Great Portland Estates received a revised planning consent and went ahead this year. Amalco House is now demolished and new foundations are going in. The original planning consent was to reuse some of the structure of the building but neighbouring occupiers lobbied to get a full demolition and reconstruction as this made a the development process quicker and so reduced the nuisance and disturbance to their business.
Luckily the Trenchard House redevelopment on the opposite side of the road by Barratts is nearing completion but the pressure is still on the area as PMB Holdings redevelopment on the West side of Berwick Street which received consent last year is due to start in August as are a number of smaller schemes. It is then likely to be followed by a start on site for the controversial Walkers Court redevelopment. Unfortunately planning legislation does not permit the Council to phase big schemes like this to prevent such continuous disruption to the area.
In another part of Soho the Crown Estate's refurbishment of what they call Quadrant 5 on the corner of Brewer Street and Sherwood Street also continues as does the refurbishment of the offices above the Quadrant Arcade and up in the north east corner Crossrail grinds slowly forward. Now we hear planning for Crossrail 2 is gearing up and buildings on Shaftesbury Avenue are at risk as the southern entrance/exit of the interchange under Tottenham Court Road.