In these inaugural awards, the Editor’s Award goes to the London Borough of Hounslow’s Rogue Landlord project, which won the Award for Enforcement, sponsored by Ivy Legal (see p19). This entry showed clear evidence of protecting vulnerable people in a west London community from the effect of unauthorised development.
The borough faces problems with unscrupulous landlords using unauthorised back garden shacks and sheds to offer accommodation. The borough says such residences are frequently cramped, damp and insanitary. The illegal accommodation also overloads council services such as waste and education, and detracts from other residents’ enjoyment of their homes.
In January 2013, the borough responded by setting up a taskforce to tackle the problem. Over the next 18 months, it visited 3,540 dwellings, issued 400 planning contravention notices, brought 45 illegal dwellings out of use and fined transgressing landlords a total of more than £165,000.
There were a number of factors behind the selection of the project for the Editor’s Award, ahead of 13 other prize-winning schemes. There was clear evidence of impact and residents’ association support. The scheme was also an excellent example of the critical role played by planning enforcement teams in ensuring that democratically approved local planning policies are implemented.
Planning columnist Graeme Bell, who first suggested that we include an enforcement category, has recently written that “lack of enforcement erodes confidence in the planning system”, as communities lose faith that there will be checks on individuals who flout rules agreed with the interests of the whole community in mind.
Planning policy is a key way for the borough to maintain the quality of its residents’ lives and environment. But without the taskforce’s work, it would have been in danger of becoming worthless in the fight against “beds in sheds”. The taskforce has shown how planning policy, properly enforced, can protect vulnerable communities from illegal development and its consequences.
Award for Best Practice in Career Development
Winner: London Borough of Hounslow, submitted by London Borough of Hounslow Development Management Team
The London Borough of Hounslow’s development management team prides itself on offering a career path that can take planners from school or university through to senior managerial positions. The borough’s head of development management and one area manager began their careers at Hounslow as recent planning graduates. Non-planning graduates are also taken on and sponsored through a two-year planning Masters – one team leader and a deputy manager began at the borough this way. Each September for the past four years, the borough has also taken on a planning student or students for a year’s placement, three of whom have then been employed by the council. The council is also creating a planning and an enforcement apprenticeship for school leavers. The judges praised the council for consistently finding ways to help young people enter the profession and progress upwards. They also noted that the schemes were helping the borough source and retain skilled staff.
Award for Enforcement
Winner: Rogue Landlord and Community Safety Project, submitted by the London Borough of Hounslow
Sponsored by Ivy Legal
The borough faces problems with rogue landlords letting illegal, substandard and often unsafe accommodation to migrant families. In January 2013, It set up a taskforce that visited 3,540 dwellings over 18 months, serving 400 planning contravention notices, bringing 45 illegal dwellings out of use and making seven prosecutions, levelling fines of more than £165,000. To ensure long-term impact, 240 homes have been identified to monitor, while the team issued tenant advice leaflets in five languages and referred relevant families to children’s services. The award judges said the project had made a major impact, benefitting communities and environment, and praised its cross-disciplinary work.
Image Credit : Planning Resource