10 February 2014

Kingston upon Thames Society Committee: February 2014

February's meeting had no significant planning matters to deal with so we spent most of the time looking at our internal affairs which is best summarised with the phrase our Chairman used in the meeting, "We must sharpen our game".

Learning lessons

We had a long discussion about how we operate following some recent planning decisions; Vicarage Road has been approved when we objected to it and student accommodation in South Lane/High Street (13/12980) and been rejected when we had supported it whereas the residents and University had opposed it.

This led us to question all aspects of how we handle planning applications, e.g. how we decide which ones are of interest, how we come to an opinion about them and how we should campaign on the major decisions where a simple letter to the planning department is insufficient.

This was quite a wide ranging discussion and I think that it is fair to say that we did not reach any substantial conclusions. I hope, and expect, that the improvements that we talked about will be firmed up as we go through our next few planning applications, it is a shame that we had none to consider at that meeting.

Some of the ideas that were suggested, and that I agreed with, included:

  • Do not formally support or object to an application, just provide comments on the aspects of the scheme that we like or dislike.
  • Run a proper campaign on the schemes that we have strong feelings for. This could include, for example, lobbying councillors, working with residents' associations.
  • Liaise with RBK planning officers to ensure that our views are properly include in their reports and also to understand the key strengths and weaknesses of the application so that we can modify our campaign accordingly.
  • Track RBK committees carefully so we know when applications we are interested in are coming up for consultation or decision so that we can inform that part of the process.
  • We need to find out more about "Student Accommodation", e.g. what is it (if the term has a specific meaning in planning terms) and what rules apply to it, e.g. to ensure that the occupants are students.
  • We need to be clear what our Aims and Objectives are to ensure that all our publicity is consistent with this.
We will be discussing some of this with our Members at the public meeting in April.

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)

RBK was in the final stages of the consultation on their CIL. This was a very specific proposal and we left it to Howard, who has experience in this area, to review the RBK document and to suggest a response.

Visits

Our next visit will be on 25 June and George is working on the itinerary.

Heritage Open Days (HODs)

The small grant application had been submitted on time and we were waiting for a decision. The lead Councillor for heritage had been lobbied.

It was agreed that we should try to promote the Kingston Society more at HODs but it was also recognised that this is difficult when the event comes under the national banner operated by English Heritage and, locally, RBK pay for the publicity so their logo needs to be prominent.

Any Other Business

Work was due to start on the Kingston Station platform extension soon and that would require some night-time road closures.

John Lewis is 150 years old this year and will be running some events to celebrate this.

The new market place is due to be opened on 24 June.

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