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Labour pledges design panel and high-rise halt if it wins Westminster Council election

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Westminster Council’s opposition Labour party has pledged to give architects more say on planning applications and to limit the spread of skyscrapers if elected in May

The group said it would establish a design panel to advise planning committees if it takes control of the central London borough for the first time in more than 50 years this spring.

It also declared itself ‘strongly opposed’ to the spread of tall buildings beyond existing clusters in the area, and to ‘significant intensification’ of these clusters.

The Conservative-run council held a consultation on tall building policy last year.

A document published alongside the consultation papers said: ‘There is potential to get more out of sites by having more intense development, building higher than at present or, where appropriate, considering significantly taller buildings.

‘We need to look at all these options – whether individual higher or tall buildings, clusters of them, or increasing densities by adding additional storeys to existing buildings in the right locations.’

Westminster Labour Group leader Adam Hug said this week that the party would limit the creation of skyscrapers within the borough.

‘We will look to work with local people about how to deliver well-designed, lower-rise high-density schemes that benefit our residents as well as our business communities,’ he said.

The Labour group also said it would overhaul the planning system in the borough.

A statement from Westminster Council Labour Group said: ‘If elected to run the council in May, Labour will radically reform how the planning system operates to put residents first.’

It said reforms would include establishing a ‘design panel for Westminster’ to allow ‘professional architects, other experts and interested residents’ to give advice to planning committees on major schemes.

Other plans include creating a strategic projects planning committee with a large membership to dilute the say individual councillors have in decisions.

Conservative cabinet member for planning Daniel Astaire responded: ‘The sheer volume of applications we receive means our members sit every week in a system of four committees of four members. That means we can give the many applications that come before us proper consideration. Adding extra members isn’t going to aid that process – it will just make it more cumbersome.’

He added: ‘Councillors are guided by professional design and heritage officers, whose only interest is what is good for the City of Westminster. We also consult on design policy.’

Astaire also said a further consultation would be held before any council policy was drawn up on tall buildings.

‘Just as the mayor of London talks about good growth, we have been talking about the right kind of growth for some time as we strive to accommodate more jobs and much needed additional housing for all in the city,’ he added.

‘When I launched the Right Kind of Growth consultation last year, I said that accommodating growth needn’t necessarily mean tall buildings and that in many cases it will simply mean an extra storey here and there and building behind the facades where possible. I am pleased that others seem to be coming round to supporting our way of thinking.’

Earlier this week the council’s Labour party hit out at former planning committee chair Robert Davis’s ‘staggering’ hospitality record after it emerged he received more than 500 corporate perks over three years.

Davis insisted meeting developers was an ‘important’ part of his job. There is no suggestion that he broke Westminster rules or acted improperly.  

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Readers' comments (2)

  • The Skyline Campaign welcomes the Labour Party's proposals in relation to much greater scrutiny of the design of Tall Buildings and large developments in Westminster. One of the world's most cherished and historic urban Boroughs has been subjected for several years now to the whims of a very small number of planning officials with their own controversial agendas - who have unilaterally made grossly inadequate decisions that will now affect the area for decades - leaving local residents, interest groups and statutory consultees little or no recourse. The time has come to stop this happening and to address planning issues with much greater care and as a part of a larger debate about London as a whole.
    Barbara Weiss Skyline Campaign

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  • Phil Parker

    Thought Westminster already had a design panel - doubling as a restaurant review panel.....££££

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