Letter: Fix the culture and put the case for local people

You report the resignation as a councillor of the former Westminster City Council planning committee chairman Robert Davis (Conservative) (see related articles), after an investigation found that he had breached the council's code of conduct in relation to hospitality that he enjoyed from developers.

For too long Westminster Conservatives have treated residents as an afterthought in a planning process geared towards the needs of major developers. It is time for a change.

We need to fix the broken culture at Westminster so that residents come first. Councillors should have a transparent relationship with developers and other powerful interests so that the public can be assured that their elected representatives are fighting for them, rather than dining out on developers’ expense accounts.

Westminster Labour proposes big changes to the planning system to improve public confidence and to give the public a bigger say in planning decisions.

Our proposed changes aim to make planning more transparent; improve trust in decision-making; improve the quality of decisions; and make it easier for residents to make their voice heard.

Among the points we make in our submission, we argue that all planning committee meetings should be live-streamed and recorded, all Westminster planning policy should be consolidated into a single document which can be read without cross-referencing to another, and planning committee members should accept no hospitality from individual developers or their agents.

In addition, we are asking the council to appoint a "residents’ advocate" on major applications to put the case for local people, and that an independent design panel is appointed to advise on larger schemes.

Geoff Barraclough, Westminster City Councillor, Maida Vale, and shadow cabinet member for planning

Please submit your letters by emailing planning@haymarket.com

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