Claims of Crisis in Borough Planning

Rise in outstanding enforcement cases 'shameful' say Tories

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The Conservative Group on Hounslow Council are claiming that planning enforcement in the borough is in crisis following a 'shameful' rise in outstanding cases.

The Planning Enforcement Sub-Committee meeting held earlier this month learnt that the number of outstanding cases had risen to 1437 at the end of June 2013. The Conservatives say this is a 63% increase since the end of April 2012, the Labour group say that compared with July last year the rise is only 48%

Councillor Liz Mammatt, Conservative Deputy Group Leader said, "Despite all the recent national and local publicity, these figures go on escalating. Labour owes it to everyone, for their own safety, to resolve and to be seen to be resolving, this vital issue.”

Hounslow Council has featured in the national press and satirical magazine, Private Eye, in recent months with a series of articles alleging poor behaviour by Councillors in relation to planning enforcement matters. Labour councillor Mohinder Gill was investigated by the council's standards committee and found to have breached the members' code of conduct on five counts last year. Earlier this year an appeals panel upheld three of the accounts against Cllr. Gill and found that he had improperly used his position to secure an advantage for another person. Councillor Gill is no longer involved with borough planning committees and will not be standing for re-election.

It is believed that the original investigation was prompted by an complaint by fellow Labour Councillor Elizabeth Hughes after a planning meeting in September 2010. Subsequently Cllr. Hughes was suspended by the Labour party following a complaint about an e-mail sent by Cllr. Hughes to the Labour Group's Chief whip, Alan Barber. In the e-mail she said, "It's all back to the Asian boys' club. I don't want the Labour Party dragged down by them." This July Cllr. Hughes was suspended from the Labour party for "uncomradely behaviour and racist language".

Cllr Steve Curran, cabinet member for housing, planning and regeneration at the council, says that the rise in outstanding planning enforcement cases does not reflect any problems in the planning department but is a result of extra cases from investigations by the rogue landlord team who are proactively identifying properties where there are breaches in planning. He said that they would have been disappointed if the numbers hadn’t risen.

He added, “We have just interviewed for three brand new planning enforcement officers to start as soon as possible to help with this workload, so, after this initial - and completely expected - increase in cases, we can take the action we need to."

August 29, 2013