Below is the answer I have received from Haringey Council to my official complaint about the planing consultation event at 163 Park Lane on 11th March 2015.
Provided just as it came to me so you can decide whether the answer is satisfactory too.
Please read the Haringey Council planning consultation event inadequate in engaging residents post from 13th March to remind yourself about the complaint.
Wednesday 1st April 2015
Dear Mr Ball,
Your complaint about the 163 Park Lane consultation event, our reference: LBH/4141815
Thank you for giving us an opportunity to investigate your complaint.
With respect to point 1, I am sorry that the event was not able to start at the advertised time. The late arrival of officers and start to the consultation event arose because the Council was made aware an hour before the event of the potential for a large number of people to attend the event as part of an organised demonstration by Haringey Defend Council Housing. As the Council had not be contacted by the organisers, and did not know how many protesters were likely to be in attendance, officers running the event needed review arrangements for and attendance at the meeting. This unfortunately, resulted in officers arriving at the meeting a quarter of an hour after the advertised start time. Your note does not reflect the fact that following the delayed start, officers stayed behind at the venue for an extra hour after the advertised end time to ensure that those attending were provided with more time to have their say.
With regard to your 2nd point, I am sorry that you did not hear me personally apologise to the people waiting for our lateness. Given the late start, I felt that it was important to progress the meeting, rather than focus on the reasons for the delay. If this response was unsatisfactory, please accept my apologies for any offence caused.
With respect to points 3 & 4, as set out in the notice, the event was to be a ‘drop-in’ session. Elsewhere, the normal nature of drop in sessions has been received positively, - providing an opportunity for members of the public to talk with officers on a one-to-one basis to discuss any matters of concern arising out of the entire suite of draft local plan documents. This is why tall of the ‘drop-in’ event have been informal and there is no set agenda.
On this occasion, give the number of people who attended, it was not considered appropriate to do one-to-ones without people having to wait for an unacceptable period of time. The only practicable solution therefore, was to allow the consultation event to take the form of forum. All attendees that wished to speak were given the opportunity to do so in the public forum. In addition, a number of visitors to the event asked for and were given the opportunity to have a one-to-one discussion with one of the officers present. I am clearly upset that your experience of the meeting was not positive. A number of comments that officers did receive on the night from some of the attendees were more positive and we will therefore reflect further on how, in future, we might change the format of our meetings having regard to your criticism.
On point 5, as this was a drop in session, each officer present did have a copy of the draft local plan document with which to refer to when going through any specific concerns with attendees. Copies of a brochure that provided a summary of all the draft local plan documents were also made available. My team have not recorded any request for documents to be made available in different languages. We are currently reviewing how we might broaden access to all our policy documents for those whose first language is not English and will reflect on the comments that you have made when we prepare subsequent copies of the plan for consultation.
With regard to points 6 & 7, as stated above, this was a drop in session offering the opportunity for residents to come and discuss matters of interest/concern to them. The purpose of these sessions is to enable residents to make a more informed representation to the draft Local Plan. Minutes are not taken as minutes cannot be considered as a duly made representation. The focus is also usually to provide advice and information to help visitors frame their individual comment and submissions, and we would not usually expect to record and publish the outcome of these essentially private conversations. I made clear to all in attendance that those wishing to make a representation needed to do so formally through the consultation process, for these to be considered statutorily made.
With respect to point 8, I am sorry that you could not easily identify the officers at the meeting. I have reminded officers to clearly display their ID badges when presenting at public events hosted by the Council in future.
On the 9th point, the nature of a drop-in session has been clarified above, including the fact that they are intended to enable attendees to raise any matters of concern arising out of the entire suite of draft local plan documents, which effectively covers all relevant land use planning matters.
With regard to point 10, I disagree that the officers present lacked knowledge or understanding of the proposals. We do recognise that local residents may have a detailed, local insight of their area that they wish to share with officers. The purpose of our engagement is to try and capture and understand such knowledge and ensure that it can be reflected and inform consideration of the representations to the specific of the site allocations in particular. I noted however, that some of the matters raised during the session were beyond the scope of local planning policy to address – and included broader issues surrounding national policy. Officers did their best to clarify this when such matters where raised. I am sorry that you found their responses unsatisfactory.
On the further two points.
The Council Officers present did not request the police to attend (we did however advise that the event was taking place). I consider that in the absence of any prior contact or information from Haringey Defend Council Housing regarding their demonstration, this was an appropriate response. I would concur that the behaviour of all attendees, both inside and outside of the shop was cordial.
The Government issues guidance on the purdah period, which began on Monday 30th March, at provided in the following link http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/briefing-pa...
. This states that consultation, which has the potential to compete with Parliamentary candidates for the public’s attention, should not be undertaken during the purdah period. Further guidance is then provided to local authorities by the Local Government Association (http://www.local.gov.uk/documents/10180/6869714/L15-91+Unpacking+Pu...
), this again clarifies the legal restrictions and also clarifies that local authorities should not undertake publicity/consultation during purdah that are, or may be construed as being, politically controversial.
I hope that I have resolved your concerns to your satisfaction.
If you are unhappy with my response, you can ask our Feedback and Information Governance Team to review your complaint. You should tell them what you remain dissatisfied about and what you want us to do to put things right. This normally has to be done within 12 months of this response. Their contact details are:
Feedback and Information Governance Team
6th Floor, River Park House
225 High Road
London N22 8HQ
Phone: 020 8489 1988
Head of Strategic Planning, Transport & Infrastructure
6th Floor, River Park House
225 High Road Wood Green
London N22 8HQ
Tel: 0208 489 5562