Briefing Panel Plot Thickens

Camden’s planning department try to mislead us on what went on with the Members Briefing Panel Controversy. Part 3 of 4 of a series of investigative articles into the controversy.

Following a meeting with Camden’s Head of Development Management, we have heard that there has been misrepresentation in the press regarding the controversy surrounding the Director for Regeneration and Planning.

The Camden New Journal and others, including ourselves, published letters and articles accusing the Director for Regeneration and Planning of overruling the decision by the Members Briefing Panel to put amendments of a Construction Management Plan to committee.

However we have heard that the Panel did not come to a ‘consensus’ on whether to actually put the decision to committee. This would mean that the Director’s decision did not overrule the Panel’s.

We have further heard that although Camden wrote a letter to the Camden New Journal explaining the situation, the CNJ chose not to publish it.

This concerning news comes amidst problems we have experienced with the CNJ selectively publishing letters to suit its agenda.

What has Happened?

The Members Briefing Panel essentially performs one function: it decides to put a decision to committee, or delegated powers. It is formed of three councillors, from three parties, all with extensive planning experience.

Whilst we had originally heard that the Panel put the decision to committee only to be overruled, we have heard from Camden’s most senior planners that the Panel did not come to a ‘consensus’.

Whilst what exactly this means has not yet been explained, it likely means that the Panel did not make a concrete recommendation. We are seeking clarification on exactly what happened.

It is however concerning that the CNJ chose not to give Camden an opportunity to defend their stance, whether or not it be convincing.

What about the Petition?

The petition to the Leader of the Council Georgia Gould was as usual brushed aside with no direct response.

A response was instead delegated to Chief Planning Officer, Daniel Pope.

The Chief Planning Officer is a senior member of the planning department headed by Mr Joyce. This means a petition asking for intervention in Mr Joyce’s decision has been delegated to a level below his own.

The response unusually makes no mention of the fact that the Panel did not come to a ‘consensus’, instead detailing six points to refute any claim that Camden did not act in accordance with its constitution, and to argue that in his view, the CMP should not be put to the committee. The views of the Members Briefing Panel appear to be largely irrelevant.

In fact the only part of the response that makes reference to the Panel is that ‘there is no constitutional requirement to seek views of our Member Briefing Panel‘. It appears that the planning department considers the role of councillors to be advisory to the department.

This is further confirmed by the concluding remark ” …I don’t agree with your view…”

Although the petition failed to see councillors re-establish control, it succeeded to further confirm that the concerns that we raised are well founded – that officers in Camden control planning rather than the councillors.

This controversy came to its conclusion when Camden councillors spoke out against the planning department. Read part 4 of the series: Inside Information: Briefing Panel Controversy

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