Ealing’s Local Development Framework (LDF) is a statutory planning requirement for the future of Ealing. Local Authorities all over the UK are at various stages of implementing their LDFs, which in Ealing’s case will replace its UDP as the planning ‘bible’ for Ealing in 2013 – for the years 2011 to 2026.
The most important LDF document is the local authority’s LDF Core Strategy. This document, when approved by the Government, will determine what will stay the same and what will change and where throughout the whole of Ealing over the nect 17 years.Ealing published – but didn’t publicise – its draft Core Strategy on its web site at the beginning of September 2009. Hard copies of the drafts were no doubt handed out to attendees as they left Ealing’s first of four LDF Core Public Consultation meetings held in Ealing Town Hall on 9th September 2009.
For a town of over 300,000 residents, whose five central Wards number around 75,000 residents, the turn out for this meeting was small – in fact much less than 100 people. However this is hardly surprising as Ealing Council carried out no significant or effective pre-meeting publicity. No information appeared on the Council’s web site home page; and a very small item was buried away in September’s, Ealing Council ‘Around Ealing ‘monthly magazine which plopped through my letterbox on 4th September. Residents’ groups and community groups received letters about the meeting less than one week before the meeting.
I attempted to obtain a copy of the LDF Core Strategy prior to the meeting so that I could make useful use of my time at the meeting. Ealing Council paid for an advertisement in the 4th September 2009 issue of the ‘Ealing Gazette’. The advertisement was entitled ‘Ealing’s Local Development Framework’. The text of the ad informed me that I could purchase copies of the Ealing LDF Core Strategy at Ealing Council’s Perceval House any weekday between 8:30am and 5:00pm.
On Tuesday 8th September I duly turned up at Perceval House at 8:30am only to find the building locked. Onlookers told me that the building never opened till 9:00am. Infuriated I went for a coffee and returned at 9:00am only to find over 20 people queuing being supervised by FOUR uniformed staff, who only allowed four people at a time into Reception. The Receptionist had never heard of the LDF and neither had Noreen the Customer Service operative in the internal Blue Zone in the Customer Services Centre. Noreen telephoned the Planning Department but no-one answered. Noreen did find a box of photocopied LDF documents which she said I could read but not take away. I left Noreen my card and told her I’d be back in 90 minutes. An hour later Ian Weeks of Planning called me on my mobile phone He said that the printed copies of the LDF Core Strategy were not available as they were still at the printers. I got annoyed at that point and pointed out that the advertisement said that the documents were available. He said he’d do some photocopying. At 10:45am I re-entered Perceval House, dug out Noreen who gave me photocopies of the LDF document. I offered to pay her for the documents bit she declined to accept payment.
Over the next 30 hours I studied the documents and drafted over 20 questions I wanted answers to at the 9th September Public Consultation meeting.
At 6:55pm on Wednesday 9th September I arrived at the LDF Public Consultation meeting in Ealing Town Hall. To my horror the room I found that the room was set up as a number of workshop round tables. Ealing Council Interim Planning Policy Manager Steve Barton delivered a quite short but competent overview of the LDF process. He explained that each of the residents would sit in a different LDF Workshop discussion. Richard Chilton, a local resident, raised a point about the scope of the issues and was told that there would be no ‘full audience’ questions – or answers. Will French, another local resident, told the assembled crowd that he wanted to take part in all the different workshops. Steve ruefully told him from the platform that he either joined one workshop or departed. I’m not sure what Will did but at that point I departed.
To ask residents to take part in round table workshop discussions on a 68 page Ealing LDF Core Strategy which they almost certainly have not seen or had chance to study is both stupid and a waste of rate payers’ time and money.
Of the 21 Ward Councillors in the five inner Ealing centre wards of Walpole, Elthorne, Ealing Common, Hanger Hill, and Ealing Broadway – I only saw three of them at the meeting. The Council Leader and the Council’s Chief Executive also did not attend. Aileen Jones the head of Planning was also a no-show. I think that tells us all how interested they all are about the future of Ealing.
There are three more of these meetings taking place around over the next three weeks in Greenford, Acton and Southall. I’ll attend all of them all and report on what happens at them.
I’ve studied the Government’s guidance on LDF Core Strategy Public Consultation and Ealing Council’s performance so far would not find favour with the Government’s Planning Inspectorate in Bristol.
9th September, 2009